May 10, 2012 by Paul Foeller • Print Story •
It's been said all year, by almost everyone, including me — the Miami Heat are and should be the favorites in the East. This isn't an article written to dispute that, but rather an article written to point out what has become increasingly obvious to some fans, analysts, and even some players over the last couple days, as the second round of the playoffs has taken shape.
The Indiana Pacers are going to give the Miami Heat all they can handle in a best of seven series that promises to at least come within a stone's throw of a Game 7. There's nothing flashy about the Pacers, but there are a few things that make them an undesirable matchup for the Heat.
1. They're Really Deep
I know that other teams may well lay claim to having this advantage over the Heat (and for good reason), but nobody has a deeper bench than Indiana. They could field a team of just bench players for a contest against most teams in the league, while still maintaining a solid chance of winning. Not many other teams out there can reasonably make that claim.
2. They Rebound Way Better
Make no mistake about this, the Heat are going to get beat badly off the glass. As a matter of fact, if Chris Bosh doesn't step up his game for the entire series, the Heat won't have many second chance opportunities, which spells trouble for a team that relies on their leaders, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James, to convert second chance attempts. If they keep their game predicated upon creating chances off of misses, the Heat will get embarrassed until they change their approach.
3. They Play Much Bigger
I'm not necessarily saying that the Heat can't put out an ensemble of five players to match the Pacers size, but rather that at all times, Indiana simply plays like a much bigger team. Too much of Chris Bosh's game is focused on the mid-range, and David West will exploit that in this series. Despite actually being slightly shorter than Bosh, West's proficiency in the paint on both ends of the court will force Chris Bosh to become strictly a jump-shooter — not good for Miami.
4. They Have Nothing to Lose
I know this one gets overplayed every time a prohibitive favorite plays a team expected to walk away with nothing more than an "Atta-Boy," but here it fits the mold perfectly, and mostly for reasons beyond the control of the Pacers. With the relative collapse of the Heat last year in the Finals, much was expected of the "not one, not two, not three…" bunch from the very beginning of this year.
If the Heat fall again, it will be viewed as a collapse on their part, which means two things. The first is that they have all the pressure in the world on them, and the second is that any team they play (in this case, the Pacers) is ignored as simply another road block on the way to too many rings for one hand. This should let them play their game in a loose, relaxed fashion.
Regardless of what happens starting on Sunday, one thing is clear — this will be a series to watch from beginning to end. Whether LeBron and company take that next step, or fail once again, everyone will be talking about this one for a while.