Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe 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.
> We have reasons to doubt the Pacers. Give an Indiana fan a reason or two to believe.
Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Hmm, let’s see … Indiana’s bench is deeper than Washington’s, at least on paper with Luis Scola, C.J. Watson, Ian Mahinmi and Evan Turner available for spot help. Paul George is the best player in the series, so if he can keep double-doubling the way he did against Atlanta, that’s a nice edge. Oh, and David West had a look in his eye after the Game 1 defeat like there will be mayhem if the Pacers don’t advance. How’s that for cheery optimism?
Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: Paul George, David West. And if you want a third, it’s always possible that the aliens who abducted Roy Hibbert will return him
Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: Very hard to suggest reasons of optimism considering the way Roy Hibbert continues to spiral downward and other assorted rumors that might or might not be affecting the group’s ability to coexist. Washington is playing very well, playing as a unit, so forgive me for having little optimism to share.
Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: They should believe because it’s still a talented team that has lost its way, not its talent. There. Otherwise, I got nothing. I know I don’t believe as much as late in the regular season, when I thought winning the East was very realistic. Now, it would be surprising.
John Schuhmann, NBA.com: Believe what? That they can win a series against a team with a winning record? I don’t see it happening, but I will say that, with their defense, Indiana has a higher ceiling than Washington. They just haven’t been able to get anywhere near it for more than one game at a time over the last few months. If Frank Vogel can convince Paul George to play 48 minutes a night, they might have a shot. Where they are certainly isn’t on him.
Sekou Smith, NBA.com: So you want me to lie to the Pacers’ fans, huh? I don’t know that I can manufacture believable reasons for them to believe in their team right now. The Pacers have been the most consistently disappointing elite team in this postseason. The only thing working for them right now is that the best team always tends to find its way in a best-of-7 series. The problem is, I don’t think they are the best team in this series. I think the Wizards, top to bottom right now, are just better. If Nene and Marcin Gortat continue to play the way they are and that young backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal doesn’t crack, I think the Wizards will knock the Pacers off. So as much as I’d love to stay married to my prediction of Pacers in 7 (from the series preview), I’m ready to flip-flop after seeing Game 1.
Lang Whitaker, NBA.com All Ball Blog: Here are two reasons I can give Pacers fans to believe: Paul and George. Regardless of their struggles, regardless of their opponent, the Pacers have had the best player in both series in which they’ve played. He hasn’t always played like the best player, sure, but when Paul George is playing at the height of his powers, the Pacers can withstand 0-fers from Hibbert and drifting performances from George Hill. The Pacers are a great team, sure, but they are only going to go as far as Paul George carries them.
Akshay Manwani, NBA India: Yes, the Pacers have been disappointing but if I am an Indiana fan, I am not calling it quits until Paul George lets me down. George is among the best players in the game and his play alone could give Indiana the edge in a few of these playoff games. Also, Indiana is a solid defensive team even with Roy Hibbert caught in a funk. As long as the Pacers can get stops, and play that grind-it-out style, they have a chance.
Simon Legg, NBA Australia: What if I don’t have a reason? I guess, Roy Hibbert’s performance in Game 7 against the Hawks was encouraging so maybe he recaptures that form for enough time for the Pacers to advance past the Wizards. At the end of the day, this team cannot do a thing on offense right now, their spacing is shot and they’re playing too much isolation for a team devoid of isolation players. It probably can’t be fixed.
XiBin Yang, NBA China: At least, the Pacers still own the same players who captured the top seed in the East Conference, and they still have enough options on the lineups. If the Wizards really put them on the edge, the Pacers still could try something new desperately. They may not be a contender anymore, but if they could throw away the egos just to advance past the Wizards, they’ve still got a chance — as long as they play as a TEAM.