Are the Pacers Really a Threat to Miami?
By: Matt Pineda
Amid Miami’s 7 game win streak and in the wake of All-Star weekend, people and the media are beginning to look toward the playoffs, and rightfully so. Once you get past the talk of the Lakers and if they will or won’t make the playoffs, there has been a lot of talk about determining who is the HEAT’s biggest threat in the Eastern Conference. As Miami is making its push for their third consecutive trip to the Finals, who stands in their way?
Today, both Colin Cowherd and Stephen A. Smith of ESPN have said that it is the Indiana Pacers. Now, before I go any further, let me say that I do agree with them. The Knicks rely too much on the outside shot, and who knows if they will be healthy to contend with Miami. The Bulls are no match without Derrick Rose and it seems as though we have no idea if he will be back. And the Nets just don’t stand a chance against Miami, as well as Boston without Rajon Rondo.
Back to those Pacers. Yes, they are the HEAT’s biggest threat by default. But are they really a threat? Could they beat Miami in a 7-game series? Sure, it’s possible, but is it likely? Not at all.
You can point to the two dominating wins the Pacers have had over Miami this season, and many will make the case that they have what it takes to beat the HEAT. They held Miami to a season low 77 points earlier this year and Ray Allen has yet to score against the Pacers. But if we have learned anything about the HEAT, it is that the regular season is of little importance when the playoffs roll around. In 2011, Miami lost 3/4 to Boston in the regular season and then beat them 4-1 in the playoffs. They lost all 3 match-ups with the Bulls that season and then beat them 4-1. Last year they struggled against Boston still, and yet got past them. It’s true all over the league, not just in Miami. The regular season doesn’t always foreshadow correctly.
The regular season is much different than the playoffs. When everything is equal, you find out who the better team is. Travel schedules and practice time is the same, and the variables are eliminated. This hasn’t been the case so far with Indiana and Miami this season, as they have yet to play in Miami.
Indiana played Miami tough last post-season, no doubt. And give them credit, they didn’t back down. But are we conveniently forgetting that Chris Bosh missed 5 1/2 of the 6 games in that series? You know, the Chris Bosh who averages 17.7 PPG and 7.4 RPG. The one that coach Spoelstra and other players have called the most important player on the team. The one, who when inserted into the starting lineup, helped beat the Thunder in 4 straight games. Bosh makes the world of difference for Miami, especially in a series when defenses ID on Wade and James. Yet, without Bosh, Miami still beat the Pacers in 6 games, winning 2 in Indiana.
And the Pacers aren’t much different than last year. They’ve lost Collison, and gained DJ Augustin, which is actually a downgrade. They added Ian Mahinmi, which is good, and Lance Stephenson has emerged in the rotation with Dahntay Jones out. Yes, Paul George has improved tremendously, but is it enough to consider them real threats against the HEAT? David West and Roy Hibbert are problems for the HEAT, but they overcame them last year in a series where they started Dexter Pittman one game, and played without Haslem for another. Did you hear me? Dexter Pittman started a playoff game!
The Pacers do have a great defense. They give up a league best 89.9 PPG. But don’t let that number fool you too much, they also play at one the league’s slowest paces, and are 28th in PPG at 92.8 offensively. The HEAT are tops in East in offense 103.2 PPG and defensively, Miami is 12th in the league. It won’t be EASY for the HEAT to beat the Pacers, but with a healthy HEAT team, it won’t take any more than 6 games again, maybe 5. And if the records maintain, the Pacers will have to battle the Knicks for the right to play the HEAT in the Conference Finals.
Indiana is a threat, but Miami has too much depth, experience, and desire to be unthroned by the Pacers. Either way, it will be a tremendous series, if Indiana gets there.
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