Column: RICK SOLEM
Before the Indiana Pacers-Miami Heat series started, I said the Eastern Conference Finals would be won by the Pacers in six games.
I should have been right. The first game of this series should have been Indiana’s.
Now, however, I have to change my mind, because the entire point of saying the Pacers win in six was because the Pacers would have then won Game 6 at home. Now, they head to the road tonight for Game 7 and, as bad as I want the Pacers to win, I just don’t see it happening on the road.
It has more to do with them not playing at home, then it has to do with them playing in Miami. Because, as we all know, Miami fans will show up somewhere between the middle of the first quarter to the middle of the second and kind of suck as fans.
The young Pacers feed off their fans and play better more than they get deterred by their opponent’s fans – especially Miami fans, who have better things to do in the fun and the sun.
What’s going to happen tonight? The stupid scenario that always seems to happen, I predict.
LeBron James will do what he does. Dwayne Wade or Chris Bosh will kind of suck. The other will play just OK. And some dope like Mike Miller or Mario Chalmers or Norris Cole will go off for six or seven 3-pointers and propel Miami to the NBA Finals.
It always seems to happen like that, and that just makes for sad basketball. It would be fine if Ray Allen went off with that sweet jumper. Or even Shane Battier, because he’s a respectable guy who’s been known to come through in the clutch. But, no, it’ll be one of the nobody’s on Miami who you really never hear from unless they suck … until tonight.
And the worst thing is, we shouldn’t even be here. The over-hyped Heat, with not-over-hyped James, a hobbled Wade and as soft a Bosh as has ever been seen before – which is quite remarkable because this guy is as soft a “power” forward as there is – will somehow make it into the Finals because of some random miracle by a random nobody.
The only reason why that wouldn't happen is because Indiana has played the best defense in the league all year and that’s still true in this series. But, there’s already been holes.
After the Game 1 debacle by Indiana, Miami’s only other two wins are a direct result of … wait for it … no, not James but … Udonis Haslem? Yes, Haslem. In the other two wins he’s gone 8-for-9 twice. TWICE!
You could even make a case that Chris Anderson has done what he shouldn’t be doing by going 15-for-15 so far in the series, but I actually see that hurting Miami. He’s held off on a couple questionable shots to keep that perfect field-goal percentage. I’m not sure that's worth giving up a trip to the Finals though.
And I think Indiana’s shored up its defense on Haslem, mainly because Bosh and Wade are dinged up … and we all know about it. I wonder how many Pacers are dinged up and we never hear about it, because that won’t be their excuse for losing. But Indiana doesn't have to focus as much on Bosh or Wade, therefore Haslem isn't getting wide open 12-footers.
I really want to change my mind. I really want to pick the Pacers. It’s hard to depend on Roy Hibbert, even though he’s possibly been a playoff MVP so far.
And, though, Miami has no answer defensively for him, I just see him shooting 40 percent and there goes all hopes for an Indiana win.
But they really do have the best players in this game tonight after James.
George or Hibbert have to be the second and third best players tonight, regardless of which one is No. 2. I’ll take David West over Wade or Bosh at this point. Heck, I think I’ll even take George Hill over Wade.
But, now that I think about it, is this the night Wade takes the spotlight? Is this the night he, what, takes a bunch of pain meds and can’t feel that bone bruise in his knee and is Dwayne Wade circa 2006?
Who knows? I hope not. I hope the Pacers’ defense keeps the nobody’s obsolete and the somebody’s in check.
It’s too bad, though, because we shouldn’t even be here. Because of the Game 1 catastrophe at the end of overtime when James scored a lefty-layup with 10 seconds left to put his team up, and did it again on an inbound with 2.3 seconds left on a righty layup.
I just hate the argument it was because Hibbert wasn’t in the game. Seriously? All Hibbert is good for at that point is blocking a layup … and the LAST THING ANYONE EXPECTED WAS JAMES TO GET TWO LAYUPS!
Oh well, we’ll see what happens tonight, but it’ll take perfect games from Hill and Lance Stephenson for the Pacers to win. If they shoot well and don’t turn it over, lights out Miami.
Break up the “dynasty.” Not eight, not seven, not six, not five, not four, not three, not two … just one. One championship James. Who predicts EIGHT championships, anyway? How ridiculous.