Brian Windhorst has an excellent article about the dilemma facing Lebron James in tonight’s game 7 showdown in Miami versus the Pacers. Should he try to take over the game and save the Heat like he did in Game 5, or should he try to stay with the program and find ways to get Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh involved.
Against the front line of the Pacers, the formula that worked in the regular season for Miami isn’t working now. Wade’s injury isn’t helping, and right now the Heat are searching for players who can hit shots.
But while everyone is focusing on Lebron and the lack of help, we can’t forget that it was Lebron who basically went AWOL back in 2011 against the Mavs, which was very similar to his disappearing acts in Cleveland. And while Dwyane Wade hasn’t played well in this series, Wade remembers that he had to carry a fragile Lebron several years ago.
So the dynamics in the Heat locker room will be a hot topic of conversation for a while, whether the Heat win or lose tonight. It will be interesting to see if Wade ever calls out Lebron for his own failures in the past.
As with competitive NBA playoff series, we’re seeing a back and forth between two excellent teams, and each game seems to produce a new conventional wisdom that the media will beat to death. The latest has Lebron James winning these games on his own in “Cleveland” mode, with Chris Both and Dwyane Wade doing their best impressions of disappearing magicians.
As with every “theme’ coming out of one game, things can change very quickly. The main characteristics of Lebron’s days in Cleveland were games like this when he couldn’t miss a shot, often followed by big games where he would clank up threes at the worst time and then wilt under pressure. Lebron is now much more mature and consistent, but there’s no guarantee that he can continue his torrid shooting in game 6.
Also, everyone is ripping on Dwyane Wade as he seems to age right before our eyes, but Wade is still capable of scoring outbursts that can help carry the Heat.
Then we have Chris Anderson. He should have been tossed in game 5, but the NBA at least got it right by booting him for game 6.
On the other side, Indiana needs to find someone to help out Roy Hibbert and Paul George. Lance Stevenson has been huge in their wins, but has had a hard time in Indiana’s losses. They need him to play well.
I think tonight’s game is a tossup, and if Indiana pulls it out, anything can happen in game 7 even though the Heat will be favored at home. It should be interesting . . .
The Indiana Pacers evened the series against the Miami Heat last night for a host of reasons, but one centers around Roy Hibbert and the mismatch against the Heat front line. The Heat have no answer for a classic center like Roy Hibbert, and he creates all sorts of problems for them when he stays out of foul trouble.
Now, this wouldn’t matter as much if the Miami shooters were hitting their threes, but Indiana’s overall defense deserves some credit as well.
Unlike the matchup with the Bulls, there hasn’t been a time so far in the first three games where the Pacers have looked overmatched against Lebron James and the Heat. The Pacers have the athletes and the size to go head to head with the Heat, even if they at times have their own breakdowns against the suffocating Heat defense.
But by taking game 2, the Pacers now have more than a puncher’s chance of winning this series. There’s a very long way to go, but now game 3 becomes a pivotal game. Let’s see if Hibbert and the rest of the Pacers can keep up the intensity at home. The Heat aren’t intimidated by playing on the road.
As we move into the second half of the NBA season, some unexpected teams are surging to the top of the ranks. Of course, nobody is surprised by the Miami Heat’s position at the top of the Eastern conference, but the wrong team from Los Angeles seems to be at the top, the Clippers. Many expected the Lakers to be the dominate team in the Western Conference, but they are not even in the picture right now. Here’s a quick look at where we stand as of right now:
1. Miami Heat
2. New York Knicks
3. Indiana Pacers
4. Atlanta Hawks
5. Chicago Bulls
6. Brooklyn Nets
7. Milwaukee Bucks
8. Boston Celtics
Biggest Surprises in the East
Probably the biggest surprise is the rivalry matchup sitting in the 2 and 3 seeds currently. Both Indiana and New York were expected to be in the playoff hunt, but not sitting right behind Miami with a legitimate chance to win the East. The Atlanta Hawks can also be thrown into this surprise group, as they are right behind the Pacers and not far behind the east leading Heat.
It’s going to be an exciting run to finish the season and snagging Indiana Pacers tickets for one of the final games, as they renew their historic rivalry with the Knicks, can lead to an exciting and memorable experience. All eight teams have winning records and the top four teams all have a real chance to win the conference.
1. Los Angeles Clippers
2. Oklahoma City Thunder
3. San Antonio Spurs
4. Memphis Grizzlies
5. Golden State Warriors
6. Houston Rockets
7. Denver Nuggets
8. Portland Trailblazers
Biggest Surprises in the West
The biggest surprise found in the western conference has to do with the team not in the playoff picture, as of right now. The 15-20 Los Angeles Lakers were picked to possibly win more games than any other NBA team in history, at the beginning of the season, but they currently sit 10 games back from the 8th and final playoff seed. Another huge surprise lurking even further back than the Lakers is the Dallas Mavericks.
Both of these teams have recently experienced quite a bit of success, but neither is even close to the playoff hunt right now. Without a long winning streak in the second half of the season, we may see the Lakers miss the playoffs for only the 6th time in franchise history and the first time since 2004-2005. We will most likely also see the playoffs played without Dallas for the first time since the 1999-2000 seasons.
With the two biggest surprises coming from the west, predicting the NBA finals teams isn’t all that easy. At the beginning of the year, many experts picked Miami and Los Angeles Lakers to make the finals. However, it’s necessary to re-evaluate the picture now and it’s very likely a team, such as the Indiana Pacers or the New York Knicks could build enough momentum to overtake Miami in the playoffs.
The west is all up for grabs and the most likely team to go to the finals is the San Antonio Spurs, simply because they know how to get there. Another team to look out for is the Oklahoma City Thunder, as they are young and capable of making a playoff run.
Whichever teams end up in the playoffs and the finals, this season has created quite a bit of excitement. The top teams in both conferences are only a few games apart from each other and nobody is running away with the conference titles. It will be exciting to watch and fun to see how it all shakes out.
Danny Granger had some choice words for Joakim Noah after the Pacers were eliminated in Game 5, per ESPN.
“He pulled a cowardly move,” Granger said. “He cheap-shotted a couple of my teammates, and one gets thrown out …
“The refs never catch what he did … it’s cowardly. And I’m going to say something about it. I wanted to say something about it all the way to the game was over. I just don’t think the game should be played that way. You can play hard and fight and battle, but when you start cheap-shotting people it gets out of hand.”
For his part, Noah didn’t escalate the situation any further:
“I played dirty? OK. I’m just trying to win basketball games, man,” Noah said. “It’s the name of the game.
“I’m just out there trying to do what I gotta do. Like I said, I give a lot of credit to their team. They play hard as hell. They were competitive. I don’t have anything bad to say about them. Everybody saw what happened out there. Now you want to call me a dirty player? I don’t think I’ve ever been a dirty player. It is what it is. It’s OK.”
Josh McRoberts didn’t seem to take issue with Noah’s play.
“I’m not mad about it,” McRoberts said. “He got a good hit on me. They caught me trying to hit him back.
“It’s part of the game. I’m not going to say it’s dirty. That’s Game 5 of a playoff series. You can’t say it’s dirty, it’s part of basketball.”
Here’s the play in question. You’ll see at the 0:25 mark that Noah was standing still underneath the basket with his elbow raised and McRoberts initiated the contact. Noah does nothing wrong.
Noah is not a popular player outside of Chicago, but I like his game. He plays with great energy and has a terrific feel for the game, especially for a big man. He is the heart and soul of this Bulls team.