Hey, dumbass, remember this thing? Use it more often and you won't have these problems.
Nothing new today, as I finally completed my dentist saga. Today was just a cleaning, though, so I'm feeling quite a bit better than I did my last several trips. Also, no post tomorrow because I'll be at Big Bash. And I am very sorry, Class of 2008, but I did not prepare at all for the alumni Chapel Sing. I planned on it. I really did. But, things got in the way. Like the dentist.* Ah well. Hopefully I'll be able to sing along with enough people around me. That's how I got through it for four years.
*That's a pretty lame excuse, I know. I'm sorry, Dr. Rodkey, you don't deserve any blame here.
Anyway, I feel like I'm the only person picking the Pacers tonight. I suppose that means there's a good chance I'm the crazy one, but so be it. #BlueCollarGoldSwagger
You can get analysis of last night’s game about everywhere. I don’t feel like I can add too much to that conversation. Long story short, the Pacers (generally) rebounded more like they were supposed to and the Heat didn’t play out of their heads on offense. There were some adventures in officiating, but it seemed uniformly bad, so I guess no complaint there.* There are a few things I can say, though.
*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.
No new post today because my work day was all messed up. Short version: the Pacers will play better defense, and there's no way the Heat can hit that many jumpers again. Blue Collar, Gold Swagger!
Obviously the game on Wednesday was a heart breaker. The Pacers certainly had a few chances to win that game and didn’t. Still, there are reasons to be hopeful. The Pacers clearly did not play their best game and still had a lead with two seconds to go. You would like to think you would win that game nine times out of ten or better, no matter who has the ball with two seconds.
First off, the thing that seems to be getting the most press, was Frank Vogel’s decision not to put Roy Hibbert out there for the last possession.* And, yes, I do think it was a mistake, but it’s not as if Vogel just pointed at the first five guys he saw and rolled with it. He might have out-though himself, but there was reasoning there. The Heat had a small line up with the Pacers wanting to switch everything, Frank didn’t want Hibbert to get stuck in a bad matchup. He also didn’t want to play zone because the Pacers have done it exactly zero times this year.** So he went with a smaller group, and he got burned.
*Or the possession before that, which I tweeted at the time I didn’t think was a great idea.
**I think I said before that Purdue fans really ought to be embracing the hell out of this Pacer team.
We’ll break this down as to why this was a mistake before they ever threw the ball in, but let me be clear about this first. The breakdown was on Paul George, no matter what. He’s stepped up and taken responsibility. He’ll be the first to admit his footwork was awful there, letting himself get into an unrecoverable position and overplayed the pass. It’s hard to blame him, because everybody in America knew that pass was going to LeBron James in that situation. It would be awfully tempting to jump that passing lane. But you just can’t do it in that situation. There’s too little time to worry about getting a steal and, obviously, too great a risk if you don’t deflect the ball. I’m sure you won’t see PG making that mistake again.
Anyway, back to all the very simple reasons why Vogel should have had Hibbert out on the floor. Most of this comes back to there were only 2.2 seconds left on the clock. That isn’t a lot of time. You know the Heat are going to give the ball to James if it’s at all possible. Then he’s only got two ticks to try to score. That’s not enough time to pass the ball unless he does right away. And he wouldn’t right away. First priority was trying to get his own shot, which means there was never going to be enough time to pass. Thanks to that, you didn’t really have to play a true zone. Have Hibbert sort of play whoever was closest to the rim, but essentially, he’s playing what’s known in disc as monster. To put it simply, he’s not playing a person, he’s just patrolling his area and swatting away whatever and whoever gets in the way. Normally you would be concerned about a three second call doing that in the NBA, but again, there were only two seconds left. There wasn’t time for an illegal defense. You were also in overtime. There was no reason to try to protect Roy from his sixth foul at that point. You have the best rim defender in all of basketball on your team. Something easy at the rim was exactly what you want to prevent. Basically, there was every reason to leave Hibbert out there and only convoluted reasons to leave him out.
Now, I’ve said here before that I think Frank Vogel should have won coach of the year, and there is honestly no other coach I would rather have at any level. I think he will generally coach circles around Eric Spolestra and be a big reasons why the Pacers still can (will?) pull this series out. But that wasn’t his best moment, and I’m sure he would do it different should it come up again. Again, hopefully it wouldn’t matter because George wouldn’t let LeBron waltz his way to the rim, but Hibbert is an awfully nice security blanket.
Secondly, the Pacers did most of what they wanted with their initial defense. Besides that little dump-off play which led to way too many points for the Birdman, the Pacers turned the Heat (and LeBron in particular) into a jump shooting team. That’s what they want against any team, take contested midrange jumpers or threes. Yeah, James hit a lot of those early jumpers, but he’s not nearly a consistent enough shooter for Miami to rely on that. The problem came when the Heat inevitably started missing those shots. The Pacers would just kind of stand around looking at each other and the ball trying to decide who should grab it. While they had this wordless debate, somebody from the Heat scooped up the rebound and usually got an uncontested jumper or lay up. It was a very uncharacteristic lack of hustle and defensive organization, and one that I fully expect to be fixed for game two and beyond.
The last one is turnovers. Unfortunately, we’re just going to have to decide this Pacer team is more than a little turnover prone. Still, there were some particularly bad turnovers that seemed to be caused by jitters or self-imposed pressure. You know this team wants this series in the worst kind of way, as does its fans. And the team knows this is just as important to the fans as it is to them. Pressure is good to a point, but it’s easy to go overboard. And that undue pressure looks a lot like passes to the bench or passing to a spot after a guy has already cut away from that particular spot, which the Pacers did more than once. There will still be turnovers, especially if George Hill has another iffy game, but hopefully the bad turnovers will stop.
Is LeBron going to get his? Yes. Is the pressure of guarding LeBron going to slow down PG’s offense? Most likely, though Paul looked awfully good late in game one.* This is not going to be a lock either way, but if the Pacers can clean things up a bit, they can still steal one in Miami. And if you defend your home floor, which the Pacers have been aces at all year and even better in the playoffs, that’s all you need.
*That doesn’t change that this team could really use Danny Granger to push LeBron around a bit and let George guard Dwyane Wade.
In unrelated news, the 500 is this weekend, folks. With the Pacers still in a dogfight this year, I haven’t paid as much attention as I usually do to the lead up. I don’t know the last time a pole sitter won the race, but boy, it would be awfully nice if Ed Carpenter could make this happen. He’s got my support. If not him, I guess I’d go with Marco Andretti. The Andrettis can’t be that snake bit, surely they’ve got to win at least one more at some point, right?
There’s been a lot of talk lately about how the Heat figure into history and whether or not they are actually a “great team.” The reasons why are stupid and generally get to the insecurities of LeBron James. He has never been known to take criticism well and clearly surrounds himself with people who will just tell him how great he is rather than try to steer him away from appallingly bad ideas. Most, at least around here, seem to come down on the side that Miami is not a great team, and most saying James isn’t in their top ten players of all time. I would certainly agree they aren’t a great team, though I might say James is a top ten basketball talent.*
*Although if “heart” or “mental toughness” were an NBA Jam stat, he’d rank about a two.
And that’s all fine. My problem comes down to the evidence that I’ve most heard trotted out that the Heat aren’t a great team. “They only have one championship. The NBA is so watered down now, you need to win championships like Jordan did to be great.” That just absurd to me. If you want to throw out that this team has nothing resembling depth and puts all it’s eggs in one or two baskets, fine. That’s the tact I would use. But to say you can’t be great unless you’re winning ring after ring? I don’t buy it.
It is hard to win a championship, most especially at the professional level. Even with “too many teams,” as people like to say, the difference the worst players and best players is pretty tiny. Especially when compared to the same gap in the college ranks or minor leagues. When you start comparing your “league-average” guys? Yeah, teams are balanced. That’s why you need a superstar to win, that’s what gives you your advantage over “average” teams. And when you have this sort of relative parity, it becomes exceedingly hard to win a championship, let alone multiple. And, in many ways, it’s harder to win a Stanley Cup or NBA Final than any other sport, just because there are so many rounds.
You could argue this should give a more true result, and in some ways it does. Rather than “any team can win on any given day,” like the NFL has, you have to prove your worth in a best of seven. Four times. Even if you sweep every round, you have to win 16 games. That’s a lot. And if teams were more spread out talent-wise, yes, you would have the same team winning all the time.* But, no, this is an age of parity. Every good team, every playoff-caliber team, has at least one star, most have at least two. There are a lot of games in the playoffs. When teams are evenly matched, you’re going to get relatively evenly distributed results.
*If you stopped the argument there, then yes, because the Heat haven’t won every year with LeBron, maybe they aren’t a great team yet. But, you’re going to have to forget about the Heat in particular here. Like I said, I don’t think the Heat are a great team, just not for this reason. This is my argument why this reason doesn’t make sense.
And that’s just the straight statistics. That’s not even accounting for all the crazy stuff that can and does throw the math off when you play so many games. Somebody gets hurt or suspended. A key player happens to get into foul trouble for a couple games. For whatever reason, a typically good free throw shooting team goes cold. All those things that leave you saying “That’s why you don’t play it on paper.” More games equals more chance for that crap to happen. For example, the Pacers had already played more games than an NFL team would have had to play to win the championship when George Hill was concussed last round. The Pacers should have sealed that series in New York without him anyway. There is no doubt in seemingly anybody’s mind having Hill would have made the Pacers winners in that game. If that concussion had turned out to be more serious, who knows how that series plays out.
Even in the very recent past, teams did not have to play this many games. I can easily remember the best of five opening rounds and would argue we need to go back to that. You don’t have to dig too far to get back to best of three. Throughout the Bill Russell years, when you had “great” Celtic teams and a league that wasn’t “watered down,” you only had to win three rounds, and the first one was truncated. Less games, less chance for something to go randomly wrong.
Same idea in baseball. For a very long time (until 1969), you just had to win your league. Hard to argue the regular season being meaningless when your record put you directly to the World Series. That sure seems like the purest way to do things, but I understand there are simply too many teams to let the schedule allow for that any more. So, starting in 1969 and lasting until 1994, you had a league championship series before the World Series.* Then things were split into three division, necessitating a wild card. Then, starting last year, there was a second wild card added. And what did you see through history? The Yankees won a shit-ton of World Series, and the ones they didn’t win, they typically were the runner up.
*I’ve long argued there was never any reason (other than owner’s greed) to go away from this set up and would actively campaign for a return to it if I were commissioner. Or sports czar, as Bill Simmons likes to say.
And that’s just getting into the set up of the post season. If you really want to go back as far as Russell and DiMaggio, there simply weren’t as many teams to go through. This is the most obvious reason it was easier to win a championship and easily explained, which is why I put it last. I mean, what’s easier: be the best of eight or the best of thirty? No brainer, right?
So, yes, the Heat are likely not a great team. At least, not yet. But with so many teams to beat, many more teams than Bill Russell ever dreamed of dealing with at the professional level, winning two or three championships is enough to be deemed “great” in my book these days.
No new post today or Thursday because of the dentist. Almost back to a (reasonably) normal mouth again! I hope I have enough Advil to deal with the soreness.
ALSO! I'm trying to be a good blogger and be proactive. To help on that front, I've finally started a list to keep all my ideas somewhere so they don't slip away. An obvious step I should have taken, oh, about two years ago? Yes, yes it is. But, better late than never, I suppose.
ALSO ALSO! For you folks who see my updates on Facebook, I had to reset my password the other day, which led to breaking the sharing here. That has now been fixed. If you didn't see my post yesterday and are curious about what I think about the Pacers chances against the Heat, it was posted yesterday.
If you’ve been following me or sports at all over the weekend, you know the Pacers did indeed finish things off at home. I wish I would have known about George Hill’s concussion before I posted before game five, because that would have changed my thinking. But, all’s well that ends well, right?
So here we are. Right where the Pacers wanted to be. There are only two changes in the game plan. One, the Pacers have a three instead of a two in front of their name. That’s all window-dressing and pride, though. As has been widely discussed here and other places, the Pacers were just a better team than the Knicks on a lot of levels, regardless of what their records said. Two, and much more serious, Danny Granger is not with us this time around. If you would have told me at the beginning of the year that Granger wouldn’t make it back, I probably would have given up on this season before it really started. With the benefit of hindsight, well, it’s a different story.
I like Danny Granger. I did agree that he probably shouldn’t be the main star for this team if it wanted to be successful, but he did bring a certain swagger to the team that is now solely provided by David West.* I think most knew this team would really shoot up a level once this became the Roy Hibbert and/or Paul George team, but the idea was that Danny Granger would still be there to be a volume scorer and sizeable defender. The Pacers, though, did what good teams are supposed to do. They adapted their game without Danny, to the point where I wonder if you bring him back.
*And if you’re going to have a single bad ass on your team, David West is a pretty good one to have.
I think you have to. As much as Lance Stephenson has shown he is a legitimate starter in this league, I think most would rather he be the spark and leader of the bench unit in a perfect world. I’m sure there’s a whole ‘nother blog post to be had here, but we’ll save that for another day. Let’s see how deep this team goes first.
I just wanted to do a little preview of this series. I know I’m a fan and a notorious homer, but I really think the Pacers have a good shot in this series. Even with Chris Bosh this time around. I’m even going to go so far as to agree with Mike Wells and say the Pacers take this series in seven. Even if they don’t pull this off, though, the Pacers are going to give the Heat all they can handle, and here’s why.
The Pacers starters, as a unit, are just plain better than the Heat starters as a unit. Now, the Heat have better individual players in LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, and they’re better to a level that makes the Heat heavy favorites. As much as I hate to say it, NBA history tends to say you’re better off with a superstar or two than a balanced team. But, as a unit, the Pacers are better and more evenly spaced. You may remember my amoeba comment against the Knicks. I stand by that. Advantage, Pacers.
Now, last year, the Heat absolutely killed the Pacer bench. I expect the same this year. Advantage, Heat. But, I do think Frank Vogel* learned something from last year’s playoffs, and you saw it against the Knicks. You can’t use the same kind of rotation you did in the regular season once you reach the playoffs. So, while I fully expect to see a dramatic fall-off once the bench gets in the game, I don’t think it will be used as deeply or liberally as it was in last year’s Heat series. I guess the best thing I can say is Vogel has a better idea of how to handle damage control.
*Who absolutely should have been coach of the year and anybody who didn’t consider him (AKA Mike Greenberg) ought to be wholly ashamed of themselves.
The main reason I think the Pacers will pull out this series? Because they happen to have a couple stars. Maybe not superstars like James and Wade, but certainly well above average players in Paul George and Roy Hibbert. If you have guys who play at that level, as well as guys who you consistently to go off on that level as a group,* then I feel you are better off than playing heroball, a la Melo or Cavs-era LeBron. Or, frequently, Heat-era LeBron.
Much ado was made about having three stars on your team being the key to winning a championship back when Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen joined Paul Pierce in Boston. Then again when James and Bosh joined Wade in Miami. I feel like, in many ways, this Pacer team has that, you just don’t necessarily know who the third guy is going to be. You have Paul George playing at an All-Star level on both ends. You have Roy Hibbert, who’s usually good for at least ten points and saving you more than that on the other end. Then somebody, typically either George Hill or David West, steps up, and voila, you have your third scorer. And, you know, after this last series, there’s no reason to think Lance Stephenson won’t do it again. Dwyane Wade has never been known as a defensive wizard to my knowledge, and if he’s hobbled by his knee, well, it could get interesting. And don’t forget, Stephenson is bigger and I would have to think stronger than Wade. If he’s as aggressive as he was against the Knicks, I don’t know what Wade is going to do about it.
There’s also the size issue. Namely, the Pacers are a lot bigger than the Heat everywhere except for the George-James matchup. That is the one area where the Pacers will likely miss the size of Granger, which would let George move over to Wade, but at every other position, the Pacers will badly outsize Miami. I’m sure there’s something to why West put up huge numbers against the Heat. You think anybody on that roster wants to bang around the paint with West and Hibbert all game? No, not at all. And, you know, in that regard, Hansbrough and Ian Mahinmi aren’t exactly lightweights, either.
Is it going to be a cakewalk? No, not at all. Is there a reason the Heat are heavily favored? Yes. Does that mean I’m crazy for thinking the Pacers can pull this out? Maybe, but don’t tell me I don’t have reasons to believe.
Besides, clearly there’s only one team (or at least their fans) that aren’t scared of the Heat. And they happen to live right here in Indiana.
I’m feeling it. I really am. At one point, I thought maybe the Knicks would come out, play desperately, and basically we’d get a replay of game two back in Madison Square Garden. I don’t think that now, though.
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.
No post today due to a date with the dentist. I'll write up a little something for the game tomorrow, though. Maybe by tomorrow my mouth will feel normal again.
Was this written Monday? Of course it was. I'm trying to do better, I promise.
It was a game that maybe only a Purdue fan could love. Luckily for me and most people I know, that happens to be true.
A thing of beauty? The national media didn’t seem to think so. But, I would argue it’s all a matter of perspective. Yeah, the Pacers missed a lot of open shots and took some transition jumpers they just didn’t need. But, in general, they played through the post (and Roy Hibbert in particular) like they should, which was great to see. They played the Knick defense perfectly, either bullying them with size or letting the post guys suck the defense in before kicking out to open shooters. That, I thought, was a thing of beauty. Again, the Pacers could have hit a few more of those shots, but the looks were solid. No problem with that. And the Pacers defense? Also a thing of beauty. Virtually no transition game for New York, no easy looks. Every jump shot was contested. They were playing defense smothering enough to let Carmelo Anthony, the most notorious ballhog of this generation,* only take 16 shots. Sixteen! The dude averaged almost 23 shots a game this year. In the last two games against the Pacers, Melo hoisted up 28 and 26 shots. You have to like what you saw with that.
*He’s easily on the same level as Allen Iverson used to be. And, of course, they were teammates once upon a time, if you forgot.
So, yeah, I was perfectly happy with game three. If the Pacers play like that, they’ll take this series in five games. The problem is, I don’t know if they can keep it up. The Pacers have shown a couple stretches this year of being able to keep up that intensity and that kind of focus. But, unfortunately, they’ve shown more instances of relaxing when they think they’ve reached the top of the hill. Based on that, I’m a little afraid of what game four will bring.
The saving grace? It is at home, and the Pacers have been beyond excellent at home all year and have yet to play a particularly close game at home in the playoffs. Based on that, I think the Pacers will pull this next game out. I would like to think they learned a little something about keeping the pressure on in the playoffs after last year. And I don’t think the crowd will allow them to have a let down at home. And, hopefully, getting up 3-1 will break the Knicks mentally, who I don’t necessarily think are all that mentally tough and they can await the Heat. If the schedule had broken a little differently and this game was against a desperate Knicks team* in Madison Square Garden, well, I’d be looking at what happened in Game 2. That’s what makes game four so important. Going back to New York tied 2-2 is no good.
*And they will be desperate, make no mistake.
I don’t have much more to add today, and I might not get anything posted tomorrow thanks to a dental appointment. But, I did want to congratulate my wife on passing her PHR exam today. It’s got a 50% fail rate, and it’s certainly added a lot of stress around the Parrish household. It was all worth it in the end, though, because she is now a certified Professional in Human Resources.