With the series tied 1-1, the Miami Heat take their talents to Indy to face the favored? Indiana Pacers. Though the Heat is the better team because of their Big 3 and significantly deep bench, it seems to me that the Pacers pose a troubling match-up problem for the defending champs. Even though Indiana definitely stole (pun intended) Game 2 literally from the hands of LeBron James and his attempt to play hero once again, this series may be more even than many are giving the Pacers credit for. I mean, Miami is 5-21 favorites to not only win this series, but win the NBA championship–making that ring number two of the “not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, not seven…” James-Wade-Bosh prophecy. And although I cannot pick against the Heat, I believe there are a few reasons why the Pacers could shock the world and end the Heat’s hopes of repeating.
1. Roy Hibbert
In Game 1, Hibbert finished the game on the bench as LeBron James scored the game-winning lay-up as time expired. Hibbert’s imposing size and presence in a paint that lacks a similar counterpart from Miami. In fact, often Indiana’s most effective is a missed shot. Hibbert’s six offensive rebounds contributed greatly to his 29 point performance. If he remains consistent in his offensive rebounding and continues to be physical and aggressive in the post, Indiana will be in prime position to continue winning. Miami hasn’t had an answer for Hibbert. And I do not think they have one.
2. Paul George
George is proving himself to be a top-tier player in this league. The most impressive part of George’s performance this series has been his success against LeBron James. He is fearlessly going at James and is having success scoring on him. If his elite play continues, he will do an excellent job of buffering the play of James.
3. Dwayne Wade
D-Wade must be healthy. The play of Battier, Chalmers, Cole, Allen and others cannot be counted on. If Wade is not his typical superstar self, a night where Allen, Chalmers, Battier, and Cole struggle from three, will spell out a loss for the Heat. D-Wade must be D-Wade for the rest of this series. If not, Indiana may be favored significantly more than people think. Think about it, Indiana won in Miami despite a monstrous performance from James. Wade (and by implication Chris Bosh) must be effective. And he must remain healthy, which I have my doubts about.
4. Indiana at Home
Indiana is 6-0 at home this postseason. The Pacers and Heat both know this. The fans in Indy are very aware of this. With the next two games being played in Indianapolis, I fear for the Heat. Can they repeat what they pulled off last year in the Eastern Conference Semi-finals? I know their situation does not feel or seem as desperate, but subtly, the situation is similar. Home court advantage means a lot, typically. But this is the playoffs and anything can happen. Indiana is more comfortable at home and they got a much-needed win on the road.
A win tonight for Indiana will put tremendous pressure on the Heat’s hopes of a dynastic run of championships. Nevertheless, Game 3 will be as entertaining as the first two. And this George-James matchup is becoming historic.