2012 NBA Playoff Preview: Eastern Conference Semis: Indiana Pacers Vs. Miami Heat

You’re getting no objectivity in this preview, if such a thing even exists. Your correspondent is regionally biased towards the small-town, hardhat, no-stars, blue collar, made by local workers for local people team in this second-round series, between the Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat, and anyways, it’s not like you know anything about the East’s 3-seed. Indiana was on national TV once in this shortened 2012 season. The Heat, I figure you’ve seen them.

Expect some stock farmland footage:

If the Pacers play well, this series has the potential to be one of those talked about by NBA junkies for years: This could be the series that vaults Miami’s SuperTeam into the first of a gazillion championships, this could very possibly maybe be the series that sets up Indiana for another run as the Spoiler Sans Stars that maybe will break through someday soon, like they were for so much of the Nineties and early Aughts.

Effective bigs, big wings, a bunch of shooters, youth, experience–that’s what the Pacers got going for them this year, and if they don’t fall apart (which I don’t expect), we’re getting a classic.

Some notes on what makes the Pacers the best bet in the East to beat the Heat:

No Man An Island

No one who’ll be playing significant minutes for Indiana can be left alone. No, Roy Hibbert, despite all of his improvements, cannot yet hit threes, but he’s not going out into the Promised Land. LeBron is at his defensive beastly best when he gets to play free safety, and though Danny Granger isn’t nearly as good a pure scorer as Carmelo, Batman can’t be left alone. Miami was really bad at 3-point percentage defense for an elite team–the Pacers aren’t reliant on the three, but they can hit them, especially when they’re in rhythm and open, which brings me to point two…

David West Is A Swinger

If you’re at work, just read Zach Lowe on this series and come back to me in five, but if you’re pressed for time I’ll sum it up: David West has been really, really effective on offense late in this season, and getting the ball in his hands in high pick-and-roll situations has been really, really important to the Pacers scoring buckets. Indiana is 16-4, including the Magic series, since April began, and a lot of that has been George Hill dumping the ball to West, who then makes a decision. He was slinging crosscourt passes during the Orlando series and Indiana was rotating the ball around quite well, excepting that horrid Game One collapse.  As Lowe points out, lots of side-to-side action involving a bunch of shooters is the Heat-beating blueprint-reference Dallas Mavericks, 2011.

Whip Out The Measuring Stick

It’ll doubtless be pointed out ad infinitum over the next week or so, but the Pacers are a pretty big squad. Roy Hibbert is very tall, and pretty good at basketball. He wasn’t so effective on offense against the best Big Baby we’ve ever seen, but if Indiana is following their recent pattern, that’s not so important. If Hibbert can protect the rim and rebound without fouling-Frank Vogel has already begun inveighing against the refereeing-and drop in just a few awkward hooks over Joel Anthony, the Pacers will keep the Heat from running them off the floor, which brings me to even more cribbing from other peoples…

Destroying The Big-Small Dichotomy

The Pacers are big, and LeBron is a freight train, and so Indiana should slow the game down. You’ll hear this from someone, probably on the ESPN side of the broadcast divide. And truly, it’s not a good idea to let LeBron and D-Wade get loose in transition. The Pacers can run too, though, and they showed a desire to push the ball in the Orlando series after Game One got all mucked up. One Indiana blogger called this the Power of And-power through the post, and points from running. Kareem and Magic, Bird and Parrish and McHale–those teams could do everything. Jordan and Pippen ran the floor, and then Rodman and whatever center du jour slaughtered you on the boards. Without a superstar, until Paul George gets some more seasons in, Indiana has to play every way they can to win a series like this one.

An Independent Variable Of Lesser Discussion

Darren Collison played pretty OK in the Orlando series (23/1 assist-turnover ratio), and Leandro Barbosa had his moments, too. Everyone knows Paul George is the X-Factor; Collison and Barbosa could be the Y. It’s a bad defensive backcourt, but they brought a lot of energy against the Magic, and Miami’s defense against guards-anchored by Derek Fisher-wannabe Mario Chalmers-isn’t so hot either.  If those two guards coming off the bench along with the sometimes effective and always irritating Tyler Hansbrough and Lou Amundson can be effective at all, at least holding serve for a few minutes, that might be enough to tip the series to the Pacers. The Heat were going eight-deep against the Knicks, and that includes 20 minutes a game for Anthony and Udonis Haslem.

I’m going Heat in 7, because I don’t think the Pacers are quite ready. Barkley’s hedging his bets and saying that Indiana can win in 6 or Miami in 7. Chuck really likes this series by the way; I could’ve just said that and been done. It’s gonna be a doozy.

Photo Credit: Michael Hickey / US Presswire.