But the real point of this post is to talk about the Heat Pacers series starting tonight. Benton wrote an excellent post on what the Pacer's need to do to have a shot to win the series, and, I had planned on trying to add to his post on keys to the series, and honestly, he hit the nail pretty square on the head with his post. So I am going to talk briefly today on what went wrong last year with the pacers and the heat.
Don't pick fights - Last year, the Pacers acted like they were trying to assert themselves on the Heat. The Heat are going to get every call. They always do, They've got 3 huge stars, and stars get the benefit of the doubt. No one expects the Pacers to lay down and let the Heat win (especially this guy). But the Pacer's need to keep their cools. We don't need someone to get ejected, and/or suspended for losing it. Also, the Heat will hit their FT's, giving them freebies for trying to act tough is not a good way to get ahead in this series.
Paul George - Last year, PG was a non factor in the Pacers Heat series. He played defense, but having him on the court was like playing 4 on 5 on offense. Wade was able to sag off him all series and help, and the Pacer's offense fell apart as soon as Wade realized he was able to do that. Now, PG is not the same guy he was last year, but he still has moments where he can disappear for a few minutes to a whole quarter. The key is, even when his shot isn't falling, to make a difference on offense. The Heat respect him this year, but he needs to make sure he is in the forefront of their minds the whole series.
Don't let X Beat you - Now when I lead with this, this is no insult to LeBron or Dwayne Wade. But DO NOT LET Mario Chalmers, or Haslam, or Battier be the guy that beats you. Lebron and D-Wade, and even Chris Bosh are going to get their 20-30 points every night, but here's the thing... If no one else scores other than those 3... the Pacers still win. You saw that in game 6 of the Pacers Knicks series, Melo scored in the high 30's but only 2 other guys got into double figures. When the Pacer's got in to trouble last year, its when Chalmers and Co. started going for 15-20 points. The Pacer's have not doubled anybody this year, and it's worked to their advantage most of the time. The key for the Pacer's is they have to play good enough defense one-on-one with the Heat stars, not to shut them down, but just to contain them, so others don't have to help too much and we can contain their role players.
Close out Quarters - Last year the Pacers's had the heat on the ropes, they blew the Heat out in game 3 to take a 2-1 advantage, and with about 3 minutes to go in the 2nd quarter of game 4, the Pacers had a decent lead and were set to go into the half with the lead. Dwayne Wade and Lebron went off for about 3 minutes and the Heat took the lead going into half... and they Pacer's lost games 4, 5, and 6. Now you can argue that a lot of things contributed to the Heat winning the series, which is absolutely true, but things started to go south when the Pacer's gave the Heat a little momentum. Gave them some life. Unfortunately the Pacer's have been just as bad this year as last year at doing this. The Pacer's have fallen apart at the end of quarters and give teams new life after opening up a sizable lead (again, see game 6 of NY vs. IN).
Bench minutes - The Pacer's bench has been up and down all year. Depending on the game, the Pacer's bench has either given the Pacer's great minutes, or we've seen things fall apart at the seams when the starters came out. This CANNOT be the case in this series if the Pacer's are to win. The Pacers starters had better +/- numbers through most of the series last year, the bench's numbers were atrocious in the same category. We don't need a guy to come off the bench and give us 20 point on the night, but the bench needs to score, and contain the shooters on the Heat. Along the same line, the Pacer's bench had serious foul trouble last year in the Heat series. The heat would be in the bonus within a minute or 2 of Vogel unloading the bench. The bench has to play solid D, score a little and not cripple the team effort with dumb fouls.
Don't be stupid- Last year, a much different Lance Stevenson thought it would be a good idea to make a choking sign on the sideline of game 3. Lance has done a lot of growing up, but this goes out to the whole team. Don't get tossed, don't give the Heat any extra motivation, don't let the Heat get in our heads. Go out and do what we do best, play physical grind it out basketball. Be opportunistic on offense, and remind the Heat about how the first 2 games this year went.
T.O. signing out