The Indiana Pacers will play game seven of the NBA Eastern Conference finals tonight against the Miami Heat. This is a very important game. This is the most important game in Frank Vogel’s head coaching career. It’s also the most important game that some of these young players like Paul George and Roy Hibbert have ever been in. There’s a lot on the line tonight.
To be honest there’s not as much pressure or stress on the Indiana Pacers as there is on the Miami Heat. If the Pacers win this game most people will cheer because they are the underdog. If they lose most wont be too upset because they’ve already surpassed expectations. They are the David fighting the mighty Goliath. They are the team who no one saw on this stage after the announcement that their star, Danny Granger, would be out for the rest of the season. They are fighting the much hated Miami Heat and the controversial LeBron James. This Indiana team is what Indiana basketball is all about. This team is what makes sports so entertaining and so inspiring.
The Miami Heat, on the other hand, are in a completely different boat. They are the super squad. They are the stars that joined forces to make the team of all teams to win not “just six” championships, but more. They set the bar high for themselves, but even if they hadn’t the media would have done it for them. Three of the best players in the league to make the best team the game has ever seen. So far they have only fulfilled that dream once. The Miami Heat are expected to win. They are supposed to win. They’re not just any team, they’re “a great team.” If they don’t win, they let down their fans, the media and the league. They may even be looking at breaking up the all mighty team of teams.
The fact that the Pacers don’t have as much pressure on the frees them up to play the way they did in game six. Not that game six was all that pretty, but that okay. When the game gets ugly, the Pacers win out.
What are the keys to winning for the Indiana Pacers? The same thing it always is. They need to protect the paint. Roy Hibbert needs to play well defensively and protect the rim. Miami has the ability to shoot outside, but that’s okay. Miami can’t keep an outside game going for four quarters and just like in game six, the quarter that they start missing their shots is the quarter that the Pacers use to take command of the game.
The Pacers also need to play the inside game offensively. The games that Lance Stephenson and George Hill take a lot of shots from the three point line are the games that the Pacers find themselves in trouble offensively. Those are they games they usually lose. There have to be some three point shots, it keeps the other team guessing. It’s like a football team that only runs the ball, the other team will just stop trying to guard the pass. The Pacers will take and make some three point shots, but if the live there, they’ll die there.
There are a few big questions surrounding tonights game. First of all, how much effect will Chris “Birdman” Anderson have on tonights game. After a suspension that was critical to his team, can he keep his cool and help them perform? The truth is, that if Tyler Hansborow is on top of his game, he’s able to make the Birdman a non factor.
Will David West still be sick? An upper respiratory infection doesn’t just go away in a day. Often times they linger. The media hasn’t been talking about him at all much but that doesn’t mean that he’s 100%. After seeing him play in game six, it’s probably not going to be a factor, but watch for him to get a few extra minutes on the bench to take an extra breather.
The biggest question of all is surrounding Roy Hibbert. If you don’t know about Roy’s most recent folly then you’re sleeping under a rock and probably wouldn’t be reading this in the first place. Hibbert messed up and he maned up and apologized. That doesn’t mean that it’s over or that he’s over it. Hibbert seemed very sincere in his apology and is more than likely upset that he allowed those things to come out of his mouth. The question is, will he allow this distraction affect his game? That has yet to be seen. We all know that Hibbert is one of the more sensitive guys on the court, so only time will tell what toll this event will take on him while he’s on the court.
Overall the prediction of this writer is that the Pacers will win tonight. Not just because this is an Indiana Pacers site or that I grew up a Pacers fan. The Pacers are the better team when they control the style of play. When the Pacers dictate the game and force their opponent to play at their pace and their rhythm, there’s not a single team in the NBA that can beat them in seven games. The problem is that the Miami Heat have shown that they are capable of knocking the Pacers out of their rhythm and that’s what they’ll be trying to do tonight. I believe that the Pacers have learned from their mistakes in this series and that they’ll bring those experiences and growing pains with them to the court and they’ll show the world that a balanced fundamental team is better than just throwing a bunch of superstars together.