Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.
Help those who would hate the Heat to win again: Can Indiana beat them?
Steve Aschburner: Sure, the Pacers are capable of knocking out Miami in the playoffs … if one of the Big Three gets hurt again, as (nearly) happened last spring when Chris Bosh went down. Indiana, if the bracket sets up right, should be able to take that next step to the conference finals, and it has almost everything it needs to be Finals-worthy — almost. A proven superstar to take over games and earn free throws in the closing minutes still is a playoff necessity. Miami can afford to lose just about any of its supporting cast to an injury and, frankly, it might even be able to overcome a Bosh absence this time. Only if Dwyane Wade or LeBron James were to miss 4-5 games of a best-of-seven, though, do I see anyone but the Heat representing the East in June.
Fran Blinebury: Not to oversimplify things too much, but I believe it comes down to Roy Hibbert. If he’s inspired, aggressive, throwing his bulk around in the low post, on the glass, defensively, the Pacers hit the Heat where they’re most vulnerable.
Jeff Caplan: I’m not a hater, first of all. Second, I don’t believe the Pacers have a chance to beat the Heat. Zero chance. None. Sorry.
Scott Howard-Cooper: I got nothing. Indy is capable of knocking Miami down and forcing the Heat to a standing eight count, but not the complete KO of a series victory. But if the Heat haters want something: The Pacers can make the Heat look bad on the boards. Indiana has to do that four to seven games in a row and then turn the advantage into something. I’m skeptical the Indy offense is capable of that.
John Schuhmann: First, they have, by a good margin, the best defense in the league. And it’s anchored by a 7-2 guy who deters shots at the rim, which is obviously important against LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. Second, Indiana has the size to take advantage of Miami’s lack thereof. The Pacers are the third best offensive rebounding team in the league and had 22 offensive boards in their first meeting. And third, Indy has improved quite a bit offensively over the course of the season. They’ve been the league’s seventh best offensive team since late January and actually have a better point differential than Miami over the course of the Heat’s 15-game winning streak. I would still favor the Heat in that series (and I think it’s very likely that they meet in the conference finals), because LeBron is the ultimate trump card. But Indiana is a pretty serious threat to the champs.
Sekou Smith: I can’t convince anyone of something I don’t believe to be possible. And as much as I love what the Pacers have going on right now, I don’t believe they are capable of knocking the Heat out in the playoffs. Next question please …