Statement Game? No Period At End Of Pacers vs. Heat, Round 1


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INDIANAPOLIS – Statement games? The Indiana Pacers know all about statement games.

They’re otherwise known as Game 7.

That’s the only statement game that doesn’t end with a “but…” And as the saying goes, via “Game of Thrones”: Nothing someone says before the word ‘but’ really counts.

In other words, it meant everything last season that, in their regular-season series in 2012-13, the Pacers (twice) and the Heat (once) won their home games by double digits, but …

Indiana, Boston and Chicago — in the years each went on to face Miami in the Eastern Conference finals — got the best of the Heat in statement games by a combined 8-2, but …

And the clash Tuesday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse between the East’s only two purebreds (7 p.m. ET, NBA TV)looms large for playoff positioning four months from now, but…

See? There’s always wiggle room. As far as punctuation, these statement games are best suited for ellipses or even question marks.

Remember, the Pacers won two of the three meetings last season but, when it really, really counted, lost to Miami in seven games in the East finals last spring. The Celtics in 2011-12 and the Bulls in 2010-11 experienced the same, unsatisfying arc, going 3-0 and 3-1 respectively but failing to repeat such mastery in May when a trip to The Finals was at stake.

If anything, it was as if Miami went to school on the regular-season meetings that sorta, kinda meant something and put it all to use later when the games meant everything. To the point you wonder if Pacers coach Frank Vogel might be better off sandbagging the series that starts Tuesday, continues Dec. 18 in Miami and picks up again with games on March 26 and April 11.

Considering that these two rivals could end up meeting 11 times before one (or none?) of them closes in on the Larry O’Brien trophy, do you really want the Heat — or the Pacers, as the case may be — to see, scout and game-plan everything before the postseason?

Too late, apparently.

“If they play big, if they play small, we’ve seen it all and they’ve seen everything we do,” Vogel said in anticipation. “It just comes down to execution.”

Miami’s LeBron James spit out the “statement game” label when it was offered to him, opting instead to call this one “a marquee game.” “I don’t really get too much involved in regular-season matchups, especially early, in December,” he said.

Parsing things further, it’s possible for this game to matter more than most without necessarily making any be-all-and-end-all statements. As a yardstick, fine. As a grudge match over who deserved November’s Player of the Month award, James or Paul George? OK. As something to add to the database, sure.


VIDEO: Watch Paul George’s top plays of the season

But let’s be honest, this game means more to Indiana than it means to Miami. As the NBA’s defending champions twice over, the Heat has earned the privilege of navigating the regular season a la San Antonio, pacing and probing themselves to tackle again the task they know so well in the playoffs.

Whatever the outcome of this first meeting (and eventually the regular-season four), they’ll mean more to Indiana than they will to Miami because the Heat have demonstrated the ability time and again to hit “Reset.”

“We understand they’re going to be worked up and probably marked [Tuesday's game] on their calendar as soon as the schedules came out,” Heat forward Chris Bosh told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. “Can’t worry about that. We just come out and play ball, we do our thing.”

Miami, 16-5 and wrapping up a wintry, four-game Midwest trip, has won its past two since embracing a challenge from coach Erik Spoelstra to rebound and defend more like champions. Indiana, 18-3, is home finally from a five-game, 10-day trip on which it went 3-2, with losses at Portland and in the finale Sunday against the Thunder.

Notice all those numbers in the preceding paragraph? That’s where the real impact of this game and these teams’ series will be felt. Statement games are built off words. This one has more to do with math: the Pacers are determined to finish with the East’s, and ideally the league’s, best record to secure homecourt advantage in the postseason. So call it an equation game.

“We’re trying to earn the [No. 1] seed,” Vogel said. “We feel like we’re one of the best teams in the NBA. The head-to-head matchups are going to be important to earn the one-seed. It does carry a little more weight than most regular season games, so we’re approaching it that way.”

That ambition has been credited for the Pacers’ white-hot start and their ability to tackle each game with a laser focus. Meanwhile the Heat, just two games back but already five in front of the next-nearest East competitor, would be happy to use Indiana as a rabbit and let it bust a gut driving hard and glancing over its shoulder ceaselessly from now into April.

[Pause]

Now that we’ve defused all this, you’re still going to be watching, right? Same here. Four times.


VIDEO: Relive all the best moments from the Pacers-Heat Eastern Conference finals

15 Comments

  1. kobeballhog says:

    whatever pacers can win the east miami can win the east still its the west that is the superpowe this year. west gonna destroy any east team. heck you could even combine both pacers and the heat and still west will beat them. pacers wannabe, heat too old.

  2. Nosorry says:

    Pacers? They look really good so far but just don’t see them winning a championship yet…I won’t bet against them winning the conference though unless Miami gets a healthy Wade and Greg Oden by playoffs..

  3. piranah says:

    King James Vs Prince George, Paul has better one on one skill than Lebron, but Paul has bad temperament compared to Lebron who can elevate his game on crunch situations involving more of his team mates. Miami should win today, I like Paul and really hope if he has someone like KG in his team to shepherd the intricacies of a high powered, athletic and mental game.

  4. Daniel says:

    The Pacers lost aginst Thunder in the road finale, not Spurs… That game for me didnt say anything. Finale game on a west road trip, playin back to backs, playin all the best west teams in a row and just 2 days til they meet the Heat.
    As a Heat fan I really see the Pacers as a strong competiter this year. And if they get a healthy Granger back the Heat r gonna have to dig deep to beat them. The game should mean more to Miami than it probably does, Home court will win the conference. Lets hope for a healthy Wade for the rest of the season or is gonna be…… Indiana by15p 2nite

  5. okc2014 says:

    This game is going to be very interesting, no matter what Lebron James says. And I bet Dwayne Wade won’t be “resting” tonight. Truthfully, I don’t really care who wins. Because all my attention will be focused at the Phillips Arena and the game there. But if I was to bet (which I don’t), I’d put my money on Indiana…Just for tonight. Go Thunder! Let’s Go Hawks!

  6. Miami Heat Fan says:

    I think HEAT will win by double digit tonight. maybe, or maybe i’m wrong :-)

  7. Come on give the Pacers some credits. Their game has improved a lot and they have a balanced team. It doesn’t matter if you finished 1st seed, 3rd or 7th. As long as you are able to beat all opponents in the playoffs. I hope these 2 teams meet again in the CF this year.

    I might be wrong but I’m going with the Pacers for tonights game.

  8. ok says:

    “Indiana, 18-3, is home finally from a five-game, 10-day trip on which it went 3-2, with losses at Portland and in the finale Sunday against the Spurs.”

    Please get your facts straight first, and then write an article … Indiana won at San Antonio and lost at OKC

  9. HeatfansinceWade says:

    Just another game for Miami. History has shown that the Heat save their best for the playoffs. Must win game for Indiana because they need this win to help their confidence. Miami can lose this game and shrug it off like its nothing, that why they’re the two time defending Champs.

  10. kobeballhog says:

    number 1 seed the pacers? lol they just got smacked by clearly a better okc team. i guarantee they will not finish the season on top put that in stone. an injury or two will derail everything. wannabes will never be champions. you are not crowned champion by just being the number 1 seed. beat the west and you are. what a bunch of wannabes mvp wannabes durant ate george alive blue collar f@ke gold swagger.

    • indy says:

      Do you follow NBA, Pacers had 5 games in 7 days..back to back against Clip/blazer and Spurs/Thunder, They ended up pretty much blowing out 1st of B2B games and lost the second. I don’t think any other team wins more than 1 game against these opponents. .. What does a Wannbe mean? Pacers crushing the east and Beat very good west team at their home…Dallas, Houston, Clippers, San Antonio….Nothing wanna be about that..