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.
> Is this the Indy-Miami series you expected so far? Surprises? Disappointments?
Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Yes, yes it is. Even if both teams had finished the regular season stronger – say, Indiana winding up 64-18, Miami 62-20 – and the Pacers had breezed rather than struggled through Atlanta and Washington in the first two rounds, I think we’d be right where we are now. Indiana scarcely could have played better than in Game 1, even as Miami was scoring 96 in a loss. Defense figured to tighten up in Game 2 and it did, and Miami snatching that one late was just the sort of thing two-time defending champions are wont to do. No surprises, one disappointment: It would have been extremely interesting to see Miami go down 2-0, to see the Heat dig even deeper (they’ve never faced such a deficit in a playoff series) and to see the Pacers handle the heady success. Now, though, I’ll be disappointed if we don’t get a split of G3-4 in Miami. This one got penciled in as a six-gamer, better yet seven-gamer, way back in October, and 2-2 is the best, most tension-building way to get there.
Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: The Eastern Conference finals went to Game 7 a year ago and, despite the roller coaster ride that the Pacers have been on in recent months, that’s where I still think we’re headed now. On one hand, Indiana could have and should have taken a 2-0 lead last night. But when your star, Paul George, starts out 1-for-11 and finishes 4-for-16, that’s probably not what you deserve. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade showed they still can be the two-headed monster and now the series is on. I expect another split in Miami as we continue on to Game 7.
Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: This is definitely the series we expected before the Pacers practically fell off the earth and drowned in their own sorrows. I think we’re seeing where Indy can exploit the Heat and then just how resilient and tough LeBron James is and will be as he goes for the threepeat with a team that isn’t quite as good as its predecessors.
John Schuhmann, NBA.com: If the Pacers’ offensive performance in Game 1 didn’t surprise you, then you haven’t watched them since late February. Dwyane Wade’s continued resurgence and LeBron James’ awful defense have also been noteworthy. But overall, 1-1, with Miami in control, is not a surprise. This is obviously not the best version of the Heat, but they can get the job done when they absolutely need to … against Eastern Conference opponents, at least.
Sekou Smith, NBA.com: It’s absolutely what I expected, complete with the 1-1 split after the first two games. The Pacers were built for this, to battle the Heat. And I expect we’ll see six or seven close games between them. So no, I was not surprised that the Pacers did not play as well as they did in Game 1. And I certainly was not surprised the Heat rebounded the way they did in Game 2 (there’s something about never going down 2-0 in a series in the Big 3 era that gave me comfort). I am a little disappointed that Chris Bosh has not figured things out against the Pacers yet, after so many matchups against them you’d think he’d have come up with a counter-punch by now. But the Heat will live with the results, as they did in Game 2, when they do the Big 2 (LeBron James-Dwyane Wade) routine instead of the Big 3.
Lang Whitaker, NBA.com All Ball Blog: It’s exactly what I suspected, which is to say I have learned never to suspect anything with the Pacers involved. That said, after Indiana’s terrific Game 1, I would not be shocked to see the Heat win four straight. They already won Game 2, and now they go home to Miami. I think the key for Miami isn’t so much getting scoring from their bench players as it is defending Indiana and forcing them out of their offensive game. The Pacers have looked brutal at times on offense, and if Miami can keep them around 80-90 per night, they should be able to win the series. Winning the next three in a row might be a bit aspirational, but at this point, I don’t think anyone knows what the Pacers are going to do.