I’m glad fate has allowed the Heat and Pacers series to be tied 1-1 before I had a chance to share my thoughts on what many thought would be an easy trip to the NBA Finals for the Miami Heat. I’m glad because when I told many it would be closer than most expected they laughed. It’s common for many to spend hours making predictions and share opinions about matchups and then end with a comment that basically states it's up to LeBron James whether the Heat win or lose. The unfortunate thing about those types of closing statements is that it makes everything leading up to that statement irrelevant. Let’s not kid ourselves either, the Heat made a complete 180 degree turn since LeBron joined the roster. However the often criticized bench are the ones doing the little things that make LeBron’s greatness shine through even brighter or cause his efforts to be completely futile.
Aside from the Pacers’ coach Frank Vogel’s questionable decision to sit Roy Hibbert allowing James to score a Game 1 winning layup, fans, haters and everyone in between are about to learn that Indiana is as balanced an Eastern Conference team anyone could have asked for this post season.
Numbers don’t lie: Since the Voltron like formation of the Miami Heat trio, there has been no question they are the faces at the forefront of every victory. However there is more to it than just James, Wade and Bosh showing up to the gym and walking out with wins. During the Miami Heat’s 2010-2011 playoff run that ended with a Finals loss to the Dallas Mavericks, the Heat’s big 3 averaged 66.8 points while the rest of the team earned 36.7. In their 2011-2012 championship run James, Wade and Bosh scored 67.1 points with the remaining 39.9 coming from the rest of the team. Too small a margin to be noteworthy? Well consider this year’s stats which has the Heat trio averaging 53.2 points with the rest of the team chipping in with their highest output since 2010 with 49.3 points. From a team perspective and considering who makes up the remaining roster that is a huge improvement. That statistic could end up being the difference maker allowing the 3 Amigos an opportunity to rest longer than usual and perform at their highest level.
The Indiana Pacers on the other hand are the complete opposite in terms of how the team is built and performs. During this Pacers’ postseason Paul George, David West, Roy Hibbert and George Hill are averaging 66.4 points while the while their teammates do their share with 33.2 points. If you throw in the Pacers’ 78% Free Throw shooting versus the Heat’s 66.6% over the last 2 games, you begin to see that this series is far from over. Another noteworthy statistic is the Pacers ability to out rebounded the Heat so far 71 to 68 which plays a huge part when you consider both games were won by an average of 2.5 points. The Heat should consider themselves lucky in this category when you realize the Pacers were ranked 1st in rebounds compared to the last place Heat during the regular season.
Bottom Line: Whatever theories that exist about this series the truth is that both games were extremely close and one should expect this trend to continue. With most NBA teams top heavy it’s often easier for the Heat to wear out their opponents. In the case of the Pacers where there are far more players in need of wearing out, we could see ourselves with a Game 7 or even a first time Finals appearance since 2000 for the Indiana Pacers.