Tonight we are set for Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals between the Indiana Pacers and the Miami Heat. The match-up has become quite the rivalry through six games with each team losing one at home. Add in the several technical fouls, the constant flops, and the intensely physical play from both teams and this will become one to remember for years to come. The Pacers are looking for the upset and Lebron James and the Miami Heat are trying to avoid the obvious comparison the Cleveland Cavaliers where James simply wasn’t enough. The question will be if the backcourt for Indiana will play like they have all of Indiana’s victories and whether or not Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh will finally show up for the Heat.
Following the Game 6 win by the Pacers in Indianapolis center Roy Hibbert made some colorful comments and following an apology was hit with a hefty fine. Although I am sure it won’t be I hope that it doesn’t become some sort of distraction to him or his team.
The key for Indiana seems to lie in the production of its backcourt. I look for Coach Frank Vogel to draw up a few plays specifically designed to get both Stephenson and Hill off to a productive start. The Pacers will need for George Hill to assert himself not only as the leader of their offense, but as one of the few players who can penetrate and create shots for himself and others as well drawing contact and putting the Heat in foul trouble as early as possible. When he is at his best he is usually around the 16 point mark.
For Lance Stephenson his production isn’t often measured by his scoring ability. Indiana will need for him to be energetic, but able to control and direct that energy in a positive fashion. His rebounding ability and quickness are very important to keeping the Heat off balance on defense.
Speaking of defense it will be equally imperative that the Pacers remain defense oriented. I am not sure that doubling James is the best way to go. The teams’ success typically lies in the production of the players who surround Lebron. I would like to see the return to the style exhibited early in the series with one on one defense. Switching the defender through the game isn’t a bad idea, but leaving Haslem or Wade open in order to help out with James gives those players an opportunity to get it going. That is something the Pacers don’t want to see happen.
David West should be feeling a little better and I undoubtedly expect that the duo of him and Hibbert will continue to be successful and a thorn for Miami throughout the game. It will be important for Roy to be disciplined on the defensive end of the court and stay out of foul trouble.
Predicting the winner is almost impossible for me even though I would obviously like to see my Pacers head to the NBA Finals for the first time in a long time. There are very many variables that will play into the outcome of this game, but if Indiana remains to play tough defense and dominate the paint and the glass defeating them will prove to be tough indeed.
Tip-off is at 8:30 p.m. and the game is in Miami. Indiana has proven they can win there and let’s hope they do so again.