Early Observations About the Miami-Indiana SeriesEven before Chris Bosh suffered the injury that may prevent him from playing in the remainder of Miami's second round series versus Indiana, I predicted that the Pacers could take two games from Miami and I noted that the Pacers have the necessary ingredients on their roster to give the Heat some trouble. Now that the Pacers grabbed home court advantage with a 78-75 game two win in Miami, this series should be considered a toss-up, with Indiana having a great opportunity to take command if the Pacers win their next two games at home (which will not be easy to do).
It is too soon to definitively say that the Pacers will win this series but the Pacers clearly have a great opportunity to eliminate the team that the "stat gurus" thought could win 70-plus games in a normal length regular season and could capture multiple championships. Regardless of what happens, it is very important to remember what the "stat gurus" and many media members have repeatedly asserted regarding James and Wade: they have given James all of the credit for the Cavaliers' success during James' years in Cleveland, they have suggested that James and Wade are so talented that they could win a championship with little to no help from anyone else and they have scoffed at the notion of Miami's "Big Three" by deriding Chris Bosh as "half a man." So let it be emphatically stated here and now: if Miami loses this series, no one who previously made the assertions listed above can provide excuses for James and/or Wade by citing Bosh's absence and/or the alleged inferiority of Miami's roster. After repeatedly saying that those things do not matter it would be hypocritical for someone to sing a different tune now.
Here are some thoughts and observations about the first two games of the Miami-Indiana series:
- Danny Granger and David West are basketball tough guys. They are not fake tough guys who act tough but won't do anything nor are they cheap shot artists (there is nothing tough about delivering cheap shots); they play hard-nosed basketball at both ends of the court and they won't back down from anyone regardless of a player's physical gifts or reputation. It is a great sign for Indiana that West's reaction to the game two win is that there is nothing for the Pacers to celebrate because their goal is to win the series, not to win one game or just be competitive.
- Dwyane Wade has a petulant, cheap shot streak in his personality. When he became annoyed by a non-call in the 2012 All-Star Game, he retaliated with a cheap shot that broke Kobe Bryant's nose; when he became annoyed by a non-call in game two, he retaliated with a cheap shot against the much smaller Darren Collison and was called for a flagrant foul. One of these days, Wade is going to take a shot at the wrong guy on the wrong team and find himself on the wrong end of similar treatment. A guy who drives recklessly to the hoop the way that Wade does should be more than a bit reticent about handing out random cheap shots.
- LeBron James and Dwyane Wade engaged in so many on-court histrionics that Chicago's Joakim Noah called them "Hollywood as hell" during last year's playoffs. James and Wade do assorted dance routines, handshakes and other celebrations after big plays and after victories, so it is hilarious to hear Wade complain about Indiana's relatively tame exuberance after winning game two. Wade is not playing particularly well in the playoffs, so he should focus more on improving his own performance and less on critiquing Indiana's conduct--particularly when Wade has engaged in even more outlandish conduct in the past when he enjoyed success.
- LeBron James averaged a career-low 2.4 three point field goal attempts per game during the 2011-12 regular season but in his first seven games of the 2012 postseason James has attempted 27 three pointers (3.9 per game) while shooting just .259 from behind the arc. James improved his post game and his shot selection during the regular season but during postseason play he has reverted to lingering passively on the perimeter. TNT's Charles Barkley and Shaquille O'Neal had a lengthy discussion about James' performance in the closing moments of game two and they both made valid points; Barkley is correct that James is clearly the best player on the team and thus deserves to have plays designed for him down the stretch and O'Neal is correct that James should be more assertive both in the huddle and on the court (keep in mind that O'Neal has firsthand experience with James as his teammate during the 2009-10 season when James quit against Boston in the playoffs). As O'Neal said, regardless of who the play is designed for, James can still take the ball, drive to the hoop and make a play. When James first passes the ball in the corner to Shane Battier and then meekly gives the ball up to Wade instead of attacking the hoop James is not being unselfish like Magic Johnson or reprising Michael Jordan passing to John Paxson and Steve Kerr; James is abdicating his responsibility as the best player on the court (and in the entire league). James may call himself "King" and "Chosen One" but his late game actions show that even he does not believe his own hype.
- Like James, Dwyane Wade also vastly reduced his regular season three point field attempts (from 2.7 per game in 2010-11 to 1.1 per game in 2011-12) but in the playoffs Wade has marginally increased his attempts (up to 1.6 per game) despite his consistently poor three point shooting percentage (.268 in the 2012 regular season, .182 in the 2012 playoffs).
- When the game slows down, Miami still runs the "clown car offense" that I criticized last season. The Pacers are not an offensive juggernaut capable of blowing out the Heat so all of the games in this series will likely be close but if the Pacers can limit their turnovers (particularly the open court turnovers that are easily converted into fast break points) then the Pacers can slow the game down and pound the Heat to death in the half court. Roy Hibbert is not the kind of player who likely will erupt for 25-30 points and the Pacers should not force feed him the ball at the expense of exploring other options but the sets that they run involving West cutting into the paint are very difficult for the Heat to defend against.
- No Indiana player averaged more than 18 ppg in the first two games of this series and only two of the top eight players in Indiana's rotation are shooting better than .440 from the field (Roy Hibbert and Darren Collison) but the Pacers seized home court advantage by being tough, poised and resilient and by not being intimidated by Miami's talent. The Heat are the only NBA team that has three perennial All-Stars in their primes and even with Bosh out of the lineup they still have a lot of talent but there is a recipe to beat Miami and so far the Pacers are following that recipe.
- I disagree with Denver Coach George Karl's assertion that there are several West teams that could beat Miami in a playoff series but I am sure that neither the Spurs nor the Thunder are afraid of the Heat--whether or not Chris Bosh returns to action, those teams are well-equipped to beat the Heat.
posted by David Friedman @ 4:56 PM