Yup. You read that headline right. Even with LeBron James playing at home and an NBA referee crew that is ready to send him to the free throw stripe 15 times; I think the Indiana Pacers will find a way to send the Miami Heat home. Here’s why:
1. SOMETHING IS VERY WRONG WITH DWAYNE WADE AND CHRIS BOSH
Whether it’s injuries, age, or something else, neither of them are coming close to performing at megastar level. How bad have Wade and Bosh been? They sat on the bench almost the entire second half of Game 6 while guys like Mike Miller and over-the-hill Ray Allen took their spots on the floor.
2. THE HEAT HAVE NO PAINT PRESENCE
When you’re actually excited that Chris “Birdman” Andersen will be back from suspension, that tells you something about your interior defense. Even with The Birdman back, the Heat will have trouble stopping Roy Hibbert and David West who have been scoring at will. Moreover, Indiana has been dominating Miami on the boards. Ironically, it was Pat Riley who coined the phrase: “No rebounds, no rings.”
3. THE GEORGES HAVE BEEN LETHAL
The Heat double team Hibbert in the post at their peril because Paul George and George Hill have been draining their 3-pointers (Lance Stephenson is dangerous out there, too).
4. THE PACERS PLAY TENACIOUS DEFENSE
In game 6, LeBron was so battered from the beating that the Pacers were putting on him every time he went to the hole, that he settled for a lot of outside jumpers. Indiana’s D is tenacious, and will make the Heat earn everything.
5. LEBRON JAMES NEEDS HELP—AND HASN’T BEEN GETTING IT
If the Heat are going to win, somebody, anybody, has to step up and PUT THE BALL IN THE BASKET when LeBron dishes off to them. One man can only do so much. As great as Michael Jordan was, his teammates like John Paxson, Scottie Pippen and BJ Armstrong always made big shots when the ball came their way in crunch time. Right now, nobody besides LeBron looks like they can hit a shot.
So there you have it. Am I crazy? Perhaps. But when push comes to shove, basketball is a team game, so I’ll go with the better team—and that, is Indiana.