For most part, I think that’s just because the Pacers are flat-out a better team than the Knicks. I thought that before the series started, and it seems the rest of the world finally has come around after these first four games. It seemed obvious to me at the time, and it has borne out. The Pacers are far more balanced than, well, probably any other team in the league. With the Knicks, as the Pacers have shown, you can focus on shutting down Carmelo Anthony and JR Smith, and you will likely win the game. The Knicks have tried to lock down Roy Hibbert, which led to a huge game by Paul George. They focus more on PG, and George Hill goes off for a big game. The Pacers are a delightful amoeba, or maybe even a crystalline entity, if you’re into that sort of thing.* You can try to stop it in one area, but there’s always going to be a hole you can’t cover, and this team will find it and explode out of it.
*Hint: I am.
The Knicks are most certainly not built this way, as mentioned before. The Thunder aren’t, either. You might have made a case before they traded Harden and we all learned that Serge Ibaka was not cut out for that sort of role, but not now. And most certainly not after Russell Westbrook went down. The Spurs are a fairly deep team, but even they I wouldn’t say are built that way. The only other team I would say is built like the Pacers is Memphis, and the Grizzlies sure are turning some heads now, too.
Miami is a bit of an odd case. They do have three very good players, so you might make the argument for them being built similar to the Pacers. Except there is no depth at all past those three. Sure, a guy might have a night here and there, but it’s a surprise when that happens. The thing with the Heat is that two of their guys are All-Time sort of players, and LeBron James just might be the best basketball player to ever grace this planet.* So, while I certainly wouldn’t call Miami deep, the quality of their stars still makes them almost impossible to defend.
*Barring a Monstars incident, we can probably safely say the universe. Did I use an asterisk just to make a Space Jam reference? I did. And I'm proud of it.
Speaking of Miami, I believe they’re dogging it a bit. I mean, really? Sure, you beat Chicago in five games. That seems sound enough. But if you just take a quick glance at the scores, you see the Bulls really put up a fight. Not only were they able to steal game one and keep competitive in most of the other games, they lead for long stretches of those games. It took two rather furious fourth quarter comebacks for the Heat to win two of those games. Normally you would shrug and say it’s the playoffs. But this Bulls team? I mean, I thought I would get a call to suit up for them they were so short-handed. Derrick Rose has missed the entire year,* Joakim Noah has been playing with bad wheels, and it seemed like the rest of the team were puking their guts up on the bench with the flu. And you let these guys push you so hard?
*With, you might have noticed, a bit of controversy.
I don’t mean this to reflect poorly on the Bulls. They played their hearts out and gave a much better series than anybody anticipated. You can’t blame them in the least. But if you’re as talented as the Heat, there’s no way you let those guys push you that hard. I can even somewhat overlook you dropped the first game. The Bucks provided practically no resistance, while the Bulls and Nets played a seven-gamer. That’s a long time to get rusty, between just the layoff and games that were, shall we say, lacking in intensity. I can buy maybe Miami wasn’t ready to face a desperate team in the first game and they slip up. But then you take care of business in the next four games. And I by take care of business, every game ought to look like game three, where the Heat won by almost 40. At no point should a fourth quarter comeback even enter your mind, let alone having to overcome double digit deficits twice.
So, yeah, forgive me if I think the Heat didn’t quite give their best effort. And I truly believe it’s to throw off the Pacers. I’m sure they could see, as well as everyone else, how quickly this series with the Knicks turned towards the Blue & Gold. I’m sure the Heat remember last year’s series, too, along with all these talking heads that seem to be suddenly remembering it. I’m sure the Heat remember that the Pacers took two of three from Miami this year, too, with neither game being particularly close.* And I think the Heat (and Pacer fans) know how hungry this team is for another crack at the champs. The Pacers know they had last year’s series in the palm of their hand and let the Heat slip through their fingers.
*Granted, the Heat won the last one, and it wasn’t particularly close, either.
This year’s Pacer team, even without Danny Granger, has been a team on a mission all year. Beat the Heat. That’s all it comes down to. Win tonight, and they get their shot. We’ll see just how gimpy Dwyane Wade’s knee gets then. I’m guessing it’ll get worse the further Miami falls behind.