NBA AM: Can The Pacers Really Beat The HEAT?
How About Game 3?: Yesterday in this space, I proposed the question: Can the Pacers Beat The HEAT? Last night in Miami they did just that, stealing Game 2 and home-court advantage.
The win was somewhat improbable because both teams played terrible basketball, but as every Pacer admitted after the game, this series has become a physical grudge match and they are not backing down.
“It’s a series, it’s definitely a series,” Pacers guard Darren Collison told HOOPSWORLD.
“The first and most important part is getting one in their building, but you’ve still got to win four games and even though we’re excited to get Game 2, we’ve got to go home and protect home court. “
There were not many in the national media that gave the Pacers much of a chance against the HEAT, and after Game 2 there was a sense of accomplishment, especially for a young Pacer team that’s been so heavily discounted.
“We’ve been discounted all season,” Pacers swing man Dahntay Jones told HOOPSWORLD. “It’s not that we’ve been a focal point of [anyone’s] attention. We’ve always taken pride and just taking care of our business and winning games. It’s no new thing that people doubt us right now but we’ve been consistently winning games on the road, we’ve been winning games at home and we’re just taking that attitude right now and just playing each game in itself and it gives us a boost. We’ve got to take care of our business at home.”
There were moments in Game 2 when tempers flared and the Pacers gave as good as they got.
“We don’t back down from anyone. We play hard every night. We’re aggressive and we grind out wins,“ Jones explained. “We take pride in rebounding and playing defense and we knew that it was going to be a game of defense. Both teams couldn’t really execute, but you can always defend and get stops and try and take advantage on the offensive end. “
Pacers forward Danny Granger and HEAT forward LeBron James have a long history of getting emotional and last night was no exception. James drove hard to the basket and was challenged by Granger, who made a hard play on the ball and ended up smacking James in the face. The two had to be separated and both received technical fouls.
“That’s how we envision this series,” explained Collison. “We want it to be real physical. You look at some of the series back in the day, that’s how it was. Miami’s a physical team; we’re a physical team so we don’t expect anything less.”
“You can’t really back down from anybody, especially any player on the Miami Heat. They’re not going to do the same too so it’s going to be a physical series. It’s going to be a fun one too.”
They say it’s not a playoff series until a game is won on the road and the Pacers did the improbable stealing Game 2 in Miami.
Game 3 is set for Thursday at 7 p.m. in Indianapolis and the series is now tied at 1-1.
Meet Bernard James: Every so often in this business, you come across a player whose story is so different from the norm you can’t help but get drawn in.
Bernard James is a 27-year-old NBA draft prospect. To put that into perspective, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are both 23 years old. Kobe Bryant is 33.
To say James is a long-shot for a draft pick is likely an understatement. James isn’t a late bloomer; he is actually a veteran of the Air Force, having served three tours in combat in Afghanistan.
James was a junior-college transfer to Florida State and played the last two seasons for the Seminoles and became a key part of their team.
The 6’10 James averaged 10.5 points and 8.2 rebounds for the Seminoles last season, shooting a scorching 60.6% from the field and a dreadful 55.2% from the foul line.
James may be the oldest prospect in the draft class, but he will be an interesting prospect to watch.
Take a look:
No Decisions Yet: Orlando Magic CEO Alex Martins and Magic ownership are reportedly going to meet with Magic president Otis Smith today according to WKMG’s David Pingalore.
However Martins told the Orlando Sentinel’s Josh Robbins that no decisions have been made on the status of Otis Smith or Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy.
The Magic were eliminated from the post-season eight days ago by the Pacers, and things have been relatively quiet despite rampant speculation that both Smith and Van Gundy would be replaced.
The Magic said after the season ended that there would be an evaluation period and it seems that may have started.
Orlando holds the 19th pick in the 2012 NBA Draft and are expected to attend the large group work out in New Jersey this weekend, however it’s unclear exactly who will be representing the team.
No Tax In Memphis: The Memphis Grizzlies are in a tough spot financially. They are a small market team that struggles at the box office. They have $63.4 million in salary commitments next year and two more key players in O.J. Mayo and Marreese Speights that will need new contracts this summer.
“We can’t be in the luxury tax business,” Grizzlies’ owner Michael Heisley said to Ron Tillery of the Commercial Appeal. “We’ve got to make some financial decisions. That’s without question.”
“But we have to step away from this a little bit and let this settle down. I’m not going to allow myself to have any feelings about the roster right now. I don’t want us to look at Game 7 and make decisions for the future. That would be a mistake. You have to look at the season, the players and what’s available. But we’ve got a heck of a lot of talent coming back.”
Locally, head coach Lionel Hollins has gotten a lot of heat for how his Grizzlies played versus the Los Angeles Clippers, namely giving up a 27-point lead in Game 1.
“How can people blame Lionel? The way he brought those young kids along,’ asked Heisley. “What do people want me to do, get rid of the coach? It’s ridiculous. You can’t go with more than what got you there. He’s the best coach we’ve ever had because we had the best record we’ve ever had.”
“There’s a helluva lot more to coaching than just lineups,” Heisley said. “Please tell the people in Memphis to stop looking for a scapegoat because there is none. I have no less opinion of Lionel Hollins. The reality is Lionel has more knowledge about professional basketball in one finger than I have in my body.”
The Grizzlies’ season didn’t exactly end as Heisley had hoped, but he says he is still pleased with the overall body of work.
“It’s pretty shortsighted to think that one game defines our season,” Heisley said. “If anybody thinks I’m moping today, they’re dead wrong. We had a good year.”
“The fact that we got beat by a team that was definitely equal to us in the seventh game makes me feel bad for the city. But it was a very tight, competitive series,” Heisley said. “I’m not going to diminish the successes of the season because I lost one basketball game.
“I remember I went nine years without winning a playoff game. I’d like to have more, but I feel pretty good about this team. I’m looking at the big picture.”
The Grizzlies will have no shortage of trade options this summer, including the $16.4 million contract of Rudy Gay, who could solve a lot of problems all by himself.
The 2012-13 salary cap is guaranteed to be no less than $58.044 million. However, if the final financial audit shows substantial growth, the cap number could go up, which would also raise the luxury tax line.
If things stay as they are, the luxury tax line would be $70.3 million giving the Grizzlies’ roughly $6.9 million in space beneath the luxury tax to re-sign both Mayo and Speights and address new additions.
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