Pacers not ready to beat Heat in playoffs
by Bob Kravitz, USA TODAY Sports
INDIANAPOLIS — There is this growing perception the Pacers are a quiet team that’s dangerously lying in the weeds, ready to shock the world and ruin the Miami Heat’s second straight run at an NBA title.
One national writer, Indy born-and-raised Jason Whitlock, recently rolled out lots of Game of Thrones references and referred to emerging star Paul George as a “baby dragon” while suggesting the Pacers have the Heat’s number.
A word about that: Nope.
As much as I like what the Pacers have built, what they’ve done since that 10-11 start and the way they’re playing right now — the exception being Thursday night’s 99-91 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers — they’re not beating the Heat in a seven-game series.
Don’t tell me the Heat are 0-5 against the Grizzlies, Pacers and Knicks and have lost by an average of 16.2 points per game. That’s regular season. Which means nothing to LeBron and D-Wade.
Here’s what locals conveniently forget when they recall last year’s playoff run:
Not only did the Pacers beat the Magic without Dwight Howard, but Chris Bosh missed most of the Miami series with an abdominal injury, playing just 16 minutes. The Heat still won in six games.
Everybody is talking already about a possible Miami-Indiana matchup like it’s predestined, but I’d be leery of teams the Pacers might have to play before they reach that series.
The Boston Celtics, a possible first-round opponent, have played better since Rajon Rondo was injured. The Atlanta Hawks always have given the Pacers trouble. The Brooklyn Nets are very dangerous, especially when Deron Williams is playing at or near the top of his game. And the Knicks are a brutal matchup — notwithstanding a recent Pacers blowout victory over New York — because the Knicks bring J.R. Smith and Amar’e Stoudemire off the bench.
Are the Pacers better this year? Absolutely, they are. This year, George is playing at an All-Star level and Lance Stephenson has become a very solid complementary rotation guy. They’re also much better at the backup center spot with Ian Mahinmi.
Here’s what continues to scare me, though, in a series … [For more on Kravitz: Pacers not ready to beat Heat in playoffs, click here.]