Miami Heat -3 at Indiana Pacers (Total: 182)
Tyler Hansbrough’s toughness and grit probably outweighs his game at this point in his career. I’ve dubbed him the undeniable favorite to lead the NBA in shots blocked if he ever gets to play 30-35 minutes a game; not “blocked shots” mind you, I’m talking about “shots blocked” as in the number of leather sandwiches he has stuffed back in his mouth. Every time he awkwardly plunges into a “shot” attempt, it looks as if he has interpreted “taking a shot” to mean the literal improvisation of having been SHOT; it is a heinous, ugly mess.
So is it really any surprise that the abundantly clumsy and awkward Hansbrough, while in the course of attempting to make a basketball play, excessively clobbered Dwyane Wade?? I love the old-school grit of Udonis Haslem saying “nuh uh, not to my teammate” and taking upon himself to even the score. However David Stern and the NBA league offices did not share my cavalier attitude toward Haslem’s meted out Wild West justice. They handed him down a suspension that will keep him out of tonight’s potential clincher in Indianapolis. To make matters worse for the eat, they did share my vantage point that Hansbrough’s foul, while excessive, was simply dopey and awkward as opposed to violent in it’s intent. So he gets to play tonight. Haslem doesn’t.
Does the suspension give the Pacers a glimmer of hope? Will they take Larry Bird’s public chastising referring to them as “soft” after Game Five (I would have gone with “significantly less talented” however Larry Legend is entitled to his own prerogative…) and come out focused and intense and replicate their Games Two and Three efforts? Or does this once promising series fizzle out after a third straight Lebron/Wade domination?
The key tonight for the Pacers is twofold; first, they need to get the ball back inside to Hibbert and West. After Game Two, people were talking about Roy Hibbert like he was Wilt. In the last two games, be it from foul trouble or teammate indifference, he has been reduced to barely more than a spectator. With Haslem suspended and Bosh still hurt, the already thin Miami frontline gets even thinner. This is the one huge opportunity for the Pacers exploit a Miami weakness and steal a win.
The second key will be if they can shoot the ball better from the perimeter. Establishing an early inside game should loosen things up for Paul and Granger (though he is nursing a sore ankle). Being at home should also help as well. If they shoot as poorly (and frequently) from behind the arc as they did in Game Five, then this series is over.
Keep in mind; this has been a series of huge momentum swings and wild overreactions. A week ago, the Heat was dead. Yesterday, the Pacers were instead being toe-tagged. After their Game Five effort, it seems fair. However, I am banking on a tough, emotional last stand tonight in Indy, and the forcing of a rare treat; two Game Sevens to see who will meet up in the Eastern Conference Finals. (Just an FYI – Heat v. Celtics – but it will be a fun ride the next three days before then…)
Free Pick: Indiana Pacers +3