*Never Actually Disappeared.
Could we get to the point where we feel sorry for LeBron? Wasn’t it supposed to be EASIER than this? The Big Three, the 2012 Title, the obscene 2nd half record this year–the NBA Playoffs was supposed to be a coronation. Once Russell Westbrook went down and Derek Rose didn’t appear out of the fog on a white horse for Chicago this was supposed to be a done deal. Maybe Miami would drop a game here or there–boredom–but go ahead and book that 2nd straight title. Then, something strange happened. Perhaps a more astute NBA eye could fill you in, but here’s my opinion–the rest of the Heat, the non-Lebrons–are terrible. Just a putrid collection of slop that has some people wondering whether LeBron actually had more help back in Cleveland.
I find myself watching this series with the Pacers out of hate. I didn’t realize how easy the Heat were to hate until I actually watched them play. They have Battier? And Birdman? And Juwan Howard rallying the bench? That’s an uncanny collection of players that are easy to hate. Hating on LeBron has become a waste of time for a number of reasons, but don’t overlook the target rich environment that is the Heat bench.
Along with being easy to dislike, the Heat also don’t look that dominant. They have stretches where they shoot the ball well and are able to pull away from Indiana, but this is the Pacers. They’re a “nice” team. Not exactly the dynasty Bulls. I’ve never seen a team waste more possessions than Indiana, or at least not a team in a conference final. Every other possession they have the shot clock is down at 3 seconds and they still have no plan. They take awful 3s, they miss dunks and bunnies, Lance Stephenson can turn the ball over at any moment. I watch the Pacers and I see a team that shouldn’t be good enough to stretch Miami out this much. The collective will of all that talent should have prevailed by now.
But the talent is suddenly looking a little thin. Wade looks a shell of himself and at times disinterested. He’s MAYBE hinted that LeBron is touching the ball too much. Chris Bosh has not been seen in the paint in this series. Maybe he hoists up a three, maybe it occasionally goes in, but do not expect this 7-footer to get you a rebound. Sure, Indiana “matches up well” against Miami, but that’s always been a euphemism for a team that doesn’t have a ton of talent and isn’t going to win the game/series.
The Pacers definitely have a shot tonight. They’ve played Miami even or better all year. They could have already won four games in this series. Roy Hibbert, despite his press conference improv issues, is a player the Heat have no answer for. He’s bigger and more willing to play big than anyone the Heat has to offer. If the Pacers shoot it well, if Stephenson is under control, if West can knock down some shots–this game may be out of Miami’s hands. That in itself is hard to believe, but true. The Heat had little hope in game six. Miami could play pretty well and lose. I never thought that would have been possible a few months ago.
So, will the Pacers come through tonight? Will they create the San Antonio/Indy finals that everyone is clamoring for? I don’t think they’re going to pull it off. Why? The line. Vegas. The Heat are 6 to 7 point favorites and to me that just feels like a monster Heat line. Feels like they’re going to pull it all together. It makes no sense otherwise. But, the Heat have been wounded. The Spurs should be feeling pretty comfortable as they rest.