Keys To The Pacers Beating The Heat

Keys To The Pacers Knocking Off The Heat

5/14/12 in NBA   |   Matthew_Shovlin   |   735 respect

May 2, 2012; Orlando, FL, USA; Indiana Pacers small forward Danny Granger (33) celebrates after scoring a three-point shot during the third quarter of game three in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals of the 2012 NBA Playoffs at the Amway Center. Indiana defeated Orlando 97-74. Mandatory Credit: Douglas Jones-US PRESSWIRE
After a tough loss on Sunday, the Indiana Pacers find themselves facing an 0-1 deficit in their conference semifinal series against the Miami Heat. With the top seed in a weak eastern conference (the Bulls) being knocked off, it's hard to say if there has ever been a team more heavily favored to make it to the finals than the Heat, but it's not time for the Pacers to give up yet. The Pacers have advantages over the Heat in a couple areas, and if a few players are able to step up their game, the Pacers could have a legitimate shot at pulling off the upset. I understand that Chris Bosh strained his abdominal muscle yesterday, and that's a big blow, but I'm not going to address that just yet.

The biggest key for the Pacers in this series is Danny Granger. In his age 28 season, it seems that Granger is already past his prime. However, if he could find a way to return to his 25 year-old form, he could help his team immensely. I know it's easier said than done, but this guy is still a great talent, and he needs to find that clutch gene inside of him to lead his team to wins. I've always said, you'll find yourself hard pressed to win a playoff series if you don't have a player who can dominate the game for stretches and draw excessive defensive attention. Granger once did both of those things. In 2008-09, he averaged nearly 26 points per game on 45% shooting (40% from three). He was getting to the line 7 times a game and shooting 88% from there. LeBron and Wade are going to rip off individual runs now and then, and the Pacers need a player who can do the same if necessary; that player is Danny Granger. No doubt the Pacers are built on balance and teamwork, but every team goes cold, which means every team needs a star who can produce on his own when needed.

The big advantage for the Pacers is Roy Hibbert, the 7'2'' monster out of Georgetown. The Heat finished 21st in rebounding this season, while the Pacers finished 4th. There's no question the Heat lack a big, physical front court presence, and the Pacers need to take advantage with Big Roy. They need to put the ball in deep to Hibbert and let him go to work, as he's got 5 inches on Joel Anthony and 6 on Udonis Haslem. Where I see Hibbert making his biggest impact, however, is on defense. At 7'2'' 280 lbs, not even LeBron can muscle through Roy Hibbert for a big slam. With Hibbert guarding the likes of offensively inept Joel Anthony and Udonis Haslem, he has the ability to roam in the paint and contest players driving to the rim for the Heat. He's failed to reach double digit rebounds only once in his 6 postseason games this year, and that needs to continue as well.

Mar 24, 2012; Milwaukee, WI, USA;  Indiana Pacers guard Darren Collison (2) during the game against the Milwaukee Bucks at the Bradley Center.  The Pacers defeated the Bucks 125-104.  Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-US PRESSWIREAnother advantage that the Pacers COULD have is at the point guard position. Neither Darren Collison nor George Hill have put up very good numbers consistently this season, but they both have the ability to make a large impact on the game. Darren Collison, who averaged 4.8 assists per game, is wildly inconsistent with his production. He often had games where his assists would be near 10, but also had many contests in which he'd have one or none. He needs to find his game and maintain it during this series, as he can push the ball very well and give the Heat a taste of their own medicine in transition. George Hill earned the trust of Gregg Popovich in just his second year, a rare feat. If Pop trusts you, you can ball. Hill had a weak regular season for the most part, but in his last 9 games of the regular season he averaged 13.9 points and 5.3 assists. He could be a difference maker if he can get that production against the Heat. If Darren Collison and George Hill step it up, the Pacers will have a nice advantage over the improved, but still very mediocre Mario Chalmers.

The loss of Chris Bosh is big. He kept the game close in the first half on Sunday. The Heat are calling him "out indefinitely" rather than "day to day," which usually implies he could miss significant time. Without Bosh, the Heat are missing their tallest front court regular. The biggest impact Bosh's absence will have, however, is that without his perimeter shooting ability, Pacer bigs can stay at home in the paint, closing lanes for LeBron and company. Yeah I know, LeBron and Wade cooked up the Pacers' defense without Bosh in Game 1, but it'll be a different story when Frank Vogel (my personal coach of the year) has some time to set up a game plan to slow those two down.

Despite what I said above, I'm still picking the Heat to win this series. I mean, who wouldn't? Skip and Stephen A. are on national TV arguing about if the Pacers will even win a single game. I do believe, however, that IF the Pacers can get these things done (with the addition of steady, solid play out of guys like David West and Paul George), they will push this series to Game 7. And who knows, when Game 7 comes around it just might come down to if Granger can be THE man in crunch time (because we all know LeBron can't).
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