When I think back to last season’s series between the Pacers and Heat, the image of Udonis Haslem taking out Tyler Hansborough in retaliation for his hard foul on Dwyane Wade sticks out. Psycho T went HAM on D-Wade’s head and drew blood.
Wade was struggling last year, having some of his worst playoff games of his career. Even arguing with Coach Erik Spolestra on the sidelines during a loss in Indiana. Maybe that was the moment that sparked him, but from that game on, Wade played like the guy who Shaq nicknamed Flash.
Lost in the struggles of Wade was LeBron James’ brilliance. In game 4, LBJ had a 40 point, 18 rebound, 9 assist game on the road with his team down 2-1. No one in NBA history, other than Wilt, ever had a game like that.
But its a new year and I think both teams are better than they were last year. The Heat added Ray Allen, Chris Bosh is healthy this time around, Norris Cole has improved immensely, and they’ve added Chris “Birdman” Andersen.
The Pacers don’t have Danny Granger, but Paul George has grown immensely as a player, Lance Stephenson has emerged as someone the Heat must pay attention to, and we now know how important George Hill is to everything the Pacers do on both ends.
Key questions for me in the series:
1. How hobbled is Wade? If Wade is severely hobbled and is unable to be effective, that puts a strain on Miami. But Bosh is there to help pick up the slack. I think Bosh is in line for a huge series and they’ll need it even more if Wade can’t resemble his normal self. Wade’s health is a big question mark.
2. How will the Heat handle the Pacer bigs? Indiana is the best rebounding team so far in the playoffs, Miami is one of the worst. If the Pacers can dominate the boards, they’re in good shape. Miami is going to get out rebounded in this series, but if its only by 7-9 rebounds, they’re ok.
Indiana’s bigs are extremely skilled. If the Heat go small, I’m looking for the Pacers to go to David West a lot. The Pacer guards must be patient and make crisp passes when Miami inevitably begins to front the post. Indy is the worst team in the playoffs when it comes to turnovers. Turn it over vs Miami and its dunk city. The openings will be there and they’ll need to be sharp to capitalize on them.
3. How much of a difference does having Bosh make? Before Bosh got hurt in game 1 last year, he had 13 points and 5 rebounds in 16 minutes of action. His ability to stretch the floor was sorely missed once he went out with that abdominal injury. He’s back and had a pretty good series vs the Chicago Bulls. How will the Pacers play him on P&R? Are they going to give him that 15-18 ft jumper? Is Hibbert or West going to guard him? Bosh creates so many openings and you have to believe that Indiana will live with him shooting jumpers, rather than having Wade and James living in the paint. So look for Bosh to have a great series.
I love this match-up and I think every game will be relatively close, but I don’t think Indiana has the firepower to win 4 games vs Miami.
Miami’s shooters and Bosh show up to help LeBron and the Heat take it in 5 physical, fun games.
What do you all think?
– N.D. Face