Just a few days ago I wrote an article asking whether or not the Miami Heat were six wins away from becoming one of the greatest teams of all time. It's not so much that their roster is so incredibly impressive, but the results they had put up over a not-so-small sample size of 51 games was becoming too much to ignore.
Entering Game 4 against Indiana Miami had; ripped off 47 wins in 51 games (with a 10.49 points-per-game margin of victory), gone an astounding 23-1 on the road during the stretch, and not lost to a single non-playoff team after January 14th (they won their last 23 games against teams that missed the post-season). Whether or not the Heat could match up with the '96 Bulls, '86 Celtics or '72 Lakers, that stretch is right up there with the greatest of all time. Tom Haberstroh, who writes for ESPN.com was also on board, saying Miami was a championship away from becoming one of the five greatest teams in NBA history.
However, they were six wins away entering Game 4, and thanks to a late flurry by Roy Hibbert they're still six wins away entering tonight's pivotal Game 5 in Miami. How is Indiana, a team Vegas installed as 5 to 1 underdogs entering the series hanging with Miami? Here are a few reasons that help explain why Indiana has outplayed the Heat in three of the four games, and enters tonight with a shot at pulling off the mega-upset.
1. Dominance on the glass - Through four games the Pacers have grabbed 176 rebounds and the Heat have grabbed 136. On a per game basis that is a 44 to 34 advantage for Indiana, a huge edge but not a total bloodbath. That is, until you look closer.
In Game 1 Miami hung with Indiana on the boards, losing the battle by just five (43-38), not so bad, right? Well in the Pacers Game 2 victory the rebounding edge grew to seven (39-32), and then, despite a convincing win in Game 3, the rebounding totals swung even further in Indiana's direction, as the Pacers out-rebounded Miami by 9 (45-36). However, nine is still not terrible, especially considering Miami's overall standing as a poor rebounding club. What was terrible was Game 4 when the Pacers absolutely wore down the Heat on the glass, grabbing 49 rebounds to Miami's 30, and completely swung the momentum of the game late with crucial second chance points. We all know how much Miami loves to go small, but against the Pacers duel monsters down low (Hibbert and David West), Miami needs to commit to rebounding, or face the suddenly realistic possibility of losing the series.
2. Someone put a missing persons report out on Chris Bosh - LeBron James is getting very little help from his teammates. Dwyane Wade hasn't played great, but hasn't been terrible, putting up 17/6/5 on 48% shooting. Not jaw dropping numbers from Miami's number two man, but not awful. And yea, Ray Allen, Shane Battier and Norris Cole are ICE cold, hitting just 16 of 64 shots (25%), failing to knock down the majority of the open looks that LeBron has
|The last ECF Game 5 didn't go so well for the Heat|
Instead the guy most responsible for the Heat's lethargic play has been Chris Bosh. Bosh is scoring just 14 points per game, and even worse is grabbing just 3.3 rebounds per contest. To put that in perspective, Roy Hibbert is averaging nearly as many rebounds per game (12.0) than Bosh has grabbed in the entire series (13). If Bosh doesn't pick it up, the Heat may be going home earlier than expected.
3. Indy's young legs - As of now all five of Indiana's starters are averaging at least 39 minutes per game, a staggering number. On the other side, the Heat have just one player (LeBron) averaging at least 39 minutes, and only two players (Wade and LBJ) averaging more than 32. The Heat are an older team, and it shows with how deep they are forced to go into their bench. Miami has three rotation players over the age of 34 (Battier, Allen and Chris Andersen), and only two guys under the age of 28 (Cole and Mario Chalmers). On the other side only one rotation guy for Indiana is older than 27, and that's David West who is currently playing like an all-star.
The youth Indiana has has allowed them to play their starters longer minutes, and exploit a Miami bench that is far from elite when the starters take a breather. The question now becomes, can the Pacers starters maintain their current level of play while playing so many minutes? Obviously it will be tough to keep it up, but if they can, Indiana has a shot at meeting San Antonio next week.
Again, it's still a long shot. Miami still has home court, and they still have LeBron, two things Indiana does not have. But this Indiana team has been underrated all season (including by yours truly) and matches up surprisingly well with the Heat. However if Indiana is going to get it done, they need to win tonight. No NBA team is going into Miami and winning a Game 7 on their floor. Hell, any road team winning a Game 7 is tough, but against the best player in the game, with a surefire free throw advantage built in? Can't see it happening.
So no pressure or anything Pacers, but you've got to win the next two, starting tonight.
Good luck, we're all counting on you.
P.S. Miami, remember last year's Game 5 of the Eastern Finals? Good job, good effort
P.P.S. I blocked out Games 6 & 7, Celtics won the series 3-2
Follow Mike on twitter - Mike_Dyer13 Michael Dyer 5/30/2013 04:16:00 PM Tweet