*Although the people complaining that LeBron’s sixth foul and Wade’s travel were bad calls, frankly, couldn’t be more wrong. Those were a couple of the rare good moments for last night’s crew.
First, let’s talk about Lance. Lance Stephenson played well last night. Sorta. He played well and hit shots when he absolutely needed to. He did a pretty admirable job defending LeBron James when asked, all things considered. But, other times? And other games? Dude is crazy, and it hurts. You truly have no idea what you’re going to get. He starts holding the ball, dribbling just a little longer than you’d like, and you can just feel the crazy in his eyes through the screen. I cringe every time he gets the ball in a big spot, because I absolutely don’t have any idea what you’re about to get. Lance is awfully important to this team, and you can see how unbeatable this team looks when he’s rolling. Look at the games where he lit up the Knicks. But when he’s going too fast and trying to do too much? It’s painful. And you could very well argue his way-too-early bricked three cost the Pacers game one. And yeah, being up 3-1 is a whole lot different than being tied 2-2. Having both those Miami games in your back pocket would have been huge and probably a series ender.* If the Pacers can find a way to rein Stephenson in a little bit without compromising what he adds to this team, they would really be a scary force. As it is, well, they’re still good enough to win this series. It just gets a little more dicey.
*Granted, who knows how the rest of the series turns if the Pacers do hold onto that game. But it’s nice to think about, isn’t it?
The next thing I was going to talk about was Danny Granger, but I still don’t know what to say. I’ve thought about it and thought about it, and I can’t make up my mind. Granger put a lot into this franchise when there wasn’t much here, and really spearheaded the push back to relevancy and now back to contendership. It doesn’t seem right to let him go if he can still play after this surgery. On the other hand, would Lance go back to the bench? I don’t think anybody really wants to lose him right now, either. But, whatever you think of Granger going forward, there is no denying he really exemplified the swagger of this Pacers team. Even during LeBron’s Cleveland days, it was Danny Granger who spearheaded this attitude of “LeBron ain’t nothing.” It was his swagger that kept the Pacers in the series last year, which in turn led to the confidence of “We can (and should) do this” this year. I know some fans have had an up-and-down feeling about Granger the whole time he’s been here, but you have to give him that.
Now, let’s look at Thursday’s game. Most people seem to think the Heat are going to turn into the Monstars and dominate this game. I can’t for the life of me understand why. The Pacers aren’t going to shrink. I don’t think you can depend on the rest of the Heat shooting the way they did in game three to blow the Pacers out again. Obviously the Pacers aren’t intimidated by the environment in Miami, seeing as they’ve won there in the past few seasons and in game two. And, again, should have won game one. The answer, for that argument, seems to boil down to the Heat will be pissed. That doesn’t seem like much of an argument.
Maybe the Pacers will lose game five. I personally don’t think they will, but I can see it happening. But I don’t think it will be a blowout either way. The Pacers know, especially at this point, where their advantages are over the Heat, and they’re ones you can’t really coach. They’re just plain bigger, which leads to easy points either by just scoring over guys or putting back rebounds. And, related to that, limiting second chances for the Heat by rebounding on the other end, too. The Heat’s advantage is athleticism, which is nice, but doesn’t tend to lead itself to as many easy points. Can the Heat win game five? Sure. Will they? I am unconvinced, no matter how much (noted Knick fan) Stephen A. Smith screams at me otherwise.
Look, I picked the Pacers in seven before the series started, but the more I thought about it, I really had the Pacers in six. In my mind, the Pacers were going to defend home court and steal one (likely one of the first two games) game in Miami. I thought the Heat would blow out the Pacers once, though I thought it would be in Miami. Unfortunately, that game happened at home, which blew my schedule up a little bit. That said, the Pacers have looked worlds better in Miami than I thought they would. After outplaying the Heat in three of these games, including two in Miami, I have every reason to believe the Pacers can and will win this game five. And if they win that one, there’s no reason they can’t come back to the Fieldhouse and win game six. And the key will be, as it has been and has been predicted to be all along, the big guys down low.
The equation to this series, as I see it, is simple. The difference in size is larger than the difference in athleticism. Thus, the Pacers win. It might take some time, but out of seven games, I see no reason the Pacers can’t and shouldn’t win four. All they have to do now is play another good game in Miami, which they’ve shown they can do.
Let’s go, boys. Show ‘em how we do it in Indiana. Blue collar, gold swagger.