Heat-Pacers Series Preview
The newly crowned MVP has his sights on much more.
by Dave Spahn / @davespahn
Pacers head coach Frank Vogel sure does not hold back his feelings about the Miami Heat in his first season as official head coach of the Pacers. In an article originally published in the Indy Star, Vogel called the Heat “the biggest flopping team in the NBA.” Heat coach Erik Spoestra fired right back at Vogel by saying, “I could care less. We could care less.”
Talk about NBA Playoff basketball at its finest. Two talented teams in pretty much opposite situations will meet in the second round of the Playoffs. The Heat, led by the newly crowned MVP LeBron James, desperately battle to give King James the ring that quiets most (or some) of his doubters.
Dwyane Wade wants to prove that the Big Three can work together well enough to win a title, and Chris Bosh wants to prove his worth as a legitimate star in the League.
The Big Three stirred the pot since the moment they stepped foot in Miami together, and the noise has grown even louder in their quest for a ring. They have dealt with and battled the pressure of being the NBA’s most talented/most hated team in the League all season long and look at the ‘11-12 season as an NBA Championship or bust.
The Pacers, however, bring a completely different approach. Ask the average NBA fan to name three starters on the Pacers, and I bet he/she couldn’t do it. Ask the average NBA fan who, if any, of the Pacers made the All-Star team, and I bet he/she couldn’t do that either.
The Pacers’ balanced scoring attack and tough, gritty defensive play put them on the other side of the basketball spectrum. They contain no superstars, no signature players and no monster egos. They just play hard nosed basketball and refuse to quit.
Point Guard: Mario Chalmers vs George Hill
Hill proved his worth as a legitimate starter in the Orlando series, netting double-digit points in every game and only turning the ball over 6 times in five games. He struggles now and then guarding smaller guards like Jameer Nelson, but he gave the Pacers everything they needed and more in the opening round. Mario Chalmers came an assist away from a double-double in their first game against the Knicks and shot extremely well in their third game of the series. If he can consistently knock down open looks off LeBron/Wade penetrations, the Pacers will have a lot of trouble defensively.
Shooting Guard: Dwyane Wade vs Paul George
Although George’s defense is nothing to mess around with, Dwyane Wade should still get his buckets in the series. I wouldn’t be surprised if George also takes turns on LeBron, either. George experienced a few struggles offensively in the opening round, part of which came from beyond the arc and part of which came from simply not touching the rock. Wade should look to use his physical demeanor a lot this series while getting to the rim. He will give George some troubles in the paint and will definitely disrupt George’s offensive rhythm. Make no mistake about it: Wade’s offensive numbers will most likely come. But George will make Wade work for every bucket he gets.
Small Forward: LeBron James vs Danny Granger
Danny Granger came alive in the last few games of the Orlando series for the Pacers, pushing their offensive game over the top with back-to-back, 100-point games. He starts off with the admiral task of guarding LeBron in the series. The MVP dropped 33 on the Pacers in their first matchup of the year and showed no signs of slowing down. His player efficiency rating (PER) sits atop the League by a landslide (30.8), absolutely demolishing the second highest rating of 27.09 by Chris Paul. To put those numbers in perspective: The League average PER is 15.0. He led the NBA in PER the past six seasons, every single season except for his rookie year. His offensive and defensive numbers for the ‘11-12 campaign have been no less than outstanding. The big question remains: Can he win the title?
Power Forward: Chris Bosh vs David West
Last series, I penciled David West vs Ryan Anderson as the most exciting matchup of the series and even gave Anderson the edge. I assumed Anderson would stretch out West and make him guard on the perimeter, but I failed to factor West’s toughness into the equation. He single handedly won Game 4 in Orlando and squashed any Magic hope for the series. This series marks the second series in a row with two very opposite types of players. Bosh’s finesse and post-up game will most likely prevail for the series, especially with most of the focus on LeBron and Wade. West, however, will definitely have his way in the post, tossing Heat defenders off him like a rag doll.
Advantage: (slight) Heat
Center: Eddy Curry (just kidding). I mean, Udonis Haslem vs Roy Hibbert
Udonis Haslem’s defense in the ‘11-12 season comes as nothing less than fantastic. According to Synergy Sports, he ranks in the 94% in ISO- Single Coverage situations. He hasn’t allowed a single basket all year long in iso situations with four seconds or less on the shot clock. Hibbert, however, has a 7-2 frame with extremely long arms. Haslem gives up a good five to six inches on Hibbert, so Hibbert should be able to knock down some shots in the paint. The key to this center matchup will be how well Hibbert can position himself in the paint. If he catches the ball a few feet off the block and tries to back Haslem down, he will struggle mightily. If he can get the ball on the block or in the paint, he will cause problems for the Heat.
Bench: Heat vs Pacers
As much as I like Mike Miller, Shane Battier and Joel Anthony (which isn’t very much), the Pacer bench boasts depth unrivaled among the remaining Eastern Conference teams. Former starting point guard Darren Collison now plays the sixth man role after an injury sidelined him for the last few games of the season. Leandro Barbosa brings quality athleticism to the wing and will give George/Granger some much needed rest while guarding the LeBron/Wade duo. Tyler Hansbrough will add some low post scoring, and Lou Amundson’s defensive presence down low adds to the front line depth.
Prediction: The Pacers’ depth and toughness cannot be discounted in the Playoffs. A shortened season hurt the older teams and the teams with less depth, forcing stars to log more minutes and run their bodies to the ground (see Rubio, Howard, Rose, etc). The Heat may not have the amount of depth and fresh legs the Pacers sport, but their top talent just will not be beaten in a seven-game series in the Eastern Conference. The Heat may run into serious troubles in the Championship series, but a team needs to essentially have the perfect storm in order to knock off the MVP and company. The Pacers improved leaps and bounds in the past season, but they are a ways away from being in the “Elite Title Contender” talks.
Heat Win 4-1.