The Miami Heat are the talk of the NBA universe this morning, and deservedly so. They have two of the best five players on the planet and they’re 8-6.
But along with the criticism for the talents in South Beach, there should also be a little love for the fellas from Naptown. Yes, the Heat played turrible on Monday, but the Indiana Pacers had a lot to do with that.
Yesterday, I moved the Pacers up five spots to No. 14 in the Power Rankings because none of the other teams around them could win a game, not because I thought Indiana was one of the best 14 teams in the league. About 10 hours later, it looked like a brilliant move.
The Pacers are just 6-6 with last night’s win, but statistically (point differential per 100 possessions), they’re the 10th best team in the league, ahead of teams like the 10-4 Thunder and 10-5 Jazz.
The first thing you might notice about Tuesday’s box score is the Pacers’ 35-point second quarter. But it was the other end of the floor where the Pacers dominated, forcing the Heat into their worst offensive performance of the season (even worse than the season opener in Boston).
And even though the Pacers’ other quality win came thanks to an 85-point half, it’s their defense that has been their strength this season. Currently, Indiana ranks eighth in the league defensively, allowing just 100.3 points per 100 possessions. They were actually decent defensively last season (ranking 15th), but are the third most improved team on that end this year.
Mike Wells of the Indianapolis Star writes on last night’s win…
The hype surrounding the Heat all season has been centered on their Big Three of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
Pacers coach Jim O’Brien countered their threesome by changing his starting lineup and inserting Brandon Rush in place of Mike Dunleavy so Rush could defend Wade.
The move paid off because Rush and [Danny] Granger hounded James and Wade into a tough shooting night.
James led all scorers with 25 points, but he shot less than 50 percent from the field.
Wade was 1-of-13 from the field, including 0-of-5 on 3-pointers, and he missed four free throws on the way to three points.
How impressive was Rush’s defensive job on Wade? Well, never before in his career had Wade taken at least 10 shots or played at least 32 minutes and not made at least two field goals. He was 1-for-13 in 37:32 of playing time on Monday.
And the Pacers deserve a little love for that.