A week ago I said the Miami Heat would win their series against the Indiana Pacers handily, and that the best Indy could hope for was stealing a game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
In the meantime all hell broke loose, and I was reminded once again that I should never make predictions. It may be safe to say, however, even after Miami's throttling of the Pacers in a chippy, borderline violent Game 5 Tuesday night, is that this series is going the full seven.
The belief among many is that the Heat are too good to lose to the Pacers, and that this is merely a second-round scare along the lines of what Pat Riley's New York Knicks did to Michael Jordan's Bulls in 1992; that the absence of Chris Bosh will force LeBron James and Dwyane Wade to adjust and win it on their own. And in the games that Miami has won in this series, that is absolutely the case.
The problem with the above statement is these are not even close to the 1992 Chicago Bulls. James has proven time and time again -- including in Game 2 -- that he was very wise to stop wearing number 23.
The break for Miami comes with the fact that Indiana just simply isn't very good at scoring. Centre Roy Hibbert has been somewhat effective for them (Game 5's dreadful 3-of-10 performance aside), but they just can't match up offensively with the Heat, especially when Miami is getting quick transition baskets. Danny Granger, now day-to-day with an ankle injury (and who always struggles against LeBron, anyway) hasn't got off the ground all series.
Bird calls Pacers 'soft'
Indiana does have one ace in the hole left though, and it's how Granger and fellow banged-upee David West will almost assuredly play in Game 6: Larry Bird called the team out. Following Game 5 Tuesday night, the Pacers president told the Indianapolis Star, "I can't believe my team went soft."
Then for added effect, spelled it out. "S-O-F-T. I'm disappointed," he said.
The method of the madness is no different than Wayne Gretzky's "our guys go through so much crap" speech at the 2002 Winter Olympics, it's desired effect to light a fire under the backside of the Pacers going into what will be a raucous Game 6 Thursday in Indy.
But with the gavel of Vancouver Grizzly-killer Stu Jackson expected to fall at any minute over Game 5's foolishness, the Pacers may catch another small break. We can certainly say goodbye to Dexter Pittman (and who will notice, really) for his filthy box-out shot on Lance Stephenson, but does it help Indiana if Udonis Haslem gets suspended for the rest of this series? Haslem has really only been effective in one game here, but the Heat are already playing without their all-star big man, and James finds playing stretches at the four "taxing."
Haslem's shot on Tyler Hansbrough was completely justified in my opinion, even if it was in fact a Flagrant 2 (hope for, but never expect a correct call from an NBA ref). Hansbrough had earlier mugged Dwyane Wade, something that screams out for retribution. The elbow of Pittman however, was idiotic, a move that harkened back to the days of Kermit Washington when low-skilled players wandered the floor in enforcer mode (sound familiar, NHL?).
It's been a physical series, but one more thing about all this intransigence: how the hell is there a feud between 39-year-old Juwan Howard and 21-year-old Lance Stephenson? Howard's old enough to be his father, yet they've been beaking since the regular season.
This is too much fun not to go seven. And the expectation again is the Heat will win. Just like most predicted, but with a roundabout way of getting there.
Spurs-Thunder tough call
I'm not making a prediction on the Western Conference finals. When you consider the Spurs have won 18 straight and 46 of their last 53 games, it's tough to bet against them. Keep in mind though the Thunder has only lost one game in the playoffs too. I'm still getting a changing of the guard feeling here.
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