Simply put, the Miami Heat may be in trouble. With Indiana’s recent addition of Andrew Bynum, the Pacers literally have a monstrous team. Roy Hibbert is a borderline elite center. Andrew Bynum should be good for about 15 minutes a game. Don’t forget about Ian Mahinmi. Their power forward spots feature two hard-nosed bigs in David West and Luis Scola.
I’m singling out the Heat because the rest of the Eastern Conference likely never had a chance anyway. With Bynum in the mix, I don’t feel Miami has the bodies to match up with this brutally physical Pacer team. Chris Bosh was already uncomfortable facing the likes of Roy Hibbert and David West. Greg Oden is possibly a limited presence down-low. Therefore, Miami may be searching for either an additional big or wing player.
Even if Andrew Bynum is only good for every other game, the Pacers already have strong depth. The outstanding defense speaks for itself. Former All-Star Danny Granger has now found his niche as a role player, providing additional points off the bench. C.J. Watson is an ideal backup point guard. Chris Copeland may be underlooked now. However, his ability to stretch the floor in the playoffs could be a factor. Not to mention, he gives them an additional six fouls.
Miami’s defense isn’t on par with Indiana’s historically great defense. They still have that guy named LeBron James. However, at some point there is only so much one man can do. James will already have his hands full with superstar Paul George, who brings wall-to-wall excellence on both ends of the floor. Dwyane Wade’s health is more of a concern as each month goes by. Although Chris Bosh hurts opponents with his mid to long-range shooting ability, Indiana’s depth at the four and five could mitigate that advantage.
Indiana only allows a 43.5 two-point field goal percentage to opponents. The Pacers also hold teams to a lousy 33.2 percent from three-point range. Even outside of their third place 6.9 blocked shot percentage, the Pacers give up a league best 47.8 percent on two-pointers that aren’t blocked. I forgot to mention Indiana also gives up a league-low 35.4 points in the paint per game.
These stats are all wiped out when the playoffs start. The playoffs are a new season and what happened in the past no longer matters. However, these brilliant statistics are characteristic of the way Larry Bird and the front office have constructed this physically dependent basketball team.
After all is set and done, the X-factor in this series may be Indiana’s Lance Stephenson. He’s known to be a fierce defender and potent offensive fireplug. You can see the look of relentless fight in each player’s eyes. A lost game doesn’t bring Indiana down. It only brings them closer together.
LeBron James has shown he knows how to approach late round playoff situations over the past two years. He plays with more of a chip on his shoulder. Instead of worrying about what fans and critics think of him, he stresses making the correct basketball play. However, despite San Antonio’s epic 2013 Finals collapse, Miami has been the best team in basketball for the past two years.
However, the situation is changing as we approach the 2014 NBA Playoffs. In a likely Pacers-Heat conference finals scenario, Miami may not be the better team. LeBron’s crew will still be viewed as the team to beat. However, the Indiana Pacers have grown to become the deeper and more physically prepared team. It’s going to take a heck of a lot of strength to bring this powerful group down.