The 2014 playoffs have been quite a wild ride for the Indiana Pacers. From rumors of head coach Frank Vogel’s job being on the line to making it all the way back to the Eastern Conference Finals for the second straight season.
Likewise, the Pacers are playing a best-of-seven series against the Miami Heat for the third consecutive year. Their nemesis from the south had to come to Indianapolis to play the first two games of the series. After two games, the series is deadlocked at one win a piece.
For Game 1, I headed to Broad Ripple, the popular north side neighborhood where everyone routinely acts like they’re 21 again. The sidewalks were buzzing with Pacer blue and yellow a half-hour before tipoff. I chose to stroll into a well-known sports bar on the main strip. Almost every seat was taken, and there was a tense excitement permeating from the bar to the patio seats.
As the second half wound down I began to speak with a lot of Pacers fans and recorded their thoughts on this monumental series.
I present to you the Pulse of Pacer Nation.
Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals: Miami Heat vs. Indiana Pacers on Sunday afternoon, May 18, 2014. The Pacers would dominate, winning 107-96 — and it wasn’t that close.
Brothers Bar & Grill, at the corner of Broad Ripple Ave. and Guilford Ave.
Brothers is an oft-packed bar on game day. I snagged some of the cheese curds (highly recommend) and may have shared a cheap pitcher of beer to help wash them down.
5/5 for the Pacers.
The playoffs truly do bring out the best in passionate Pacers fans. The whole bar would cheer or moan depending on the the play. It was a fun, packed way to enjoy the the playoffs. Brothers is definitely a place to consider catching Game 3.
SO, PACERS FANS, HOW WILL THIS SERIES GO?
“Well, the way we’re playing right now, I hope we get ‘em in seven,” said Mark, a 30-year high school basketball coach. “I don’t see us winning down there, but I could be wrong. I mean, the last two series’ [versus the Hawks and Wizards], we stink it up at home and won on the road. Who would have thought that?”
Understandable analysis, if the Pacers can play on the road like they have all playoffs this series should be quite interesting.
“I think it’s going to go seven. Just because they split the regular season,” said Chris, who has been a Pacers fan since Reggie Miller’s rookie year.
This seems to be the consensus belief around Indy.
Chris K., whose favorite player is Luis Scola because he “plays with heart,” said “I want to say we’re going to win, but it’s going to go down to the wire.”
As you can see there are not a ton of arrogant fans frequenting the Circle City’s bars to catch the Pacers play.
WILL ROY HIBBERT FIND HIMSELF AND HAVE A BIG SERIES?
“He needs to, if we want to win, he needs to,” Chris said.
I agree, Hibbert has owned the Heat in previous years and that confidence might just be exactly what he needs to get his head right. Likewise, he’s exactly what the Pacers need if they want to make it to the Finals. The Heat do not feature a defender down low that can bang with Hibbert when he’s playing his game.
Mark, who’s been a fan since 1967 and used to go to the Coliseum and watch the Pacers play for $2.00, had an interesting take on Hibbert. “The Heat present a different perspective than the last two teams, and he seems to be playing well right now. He’s just taking so much bashing in the media and, by all reports, he’s a really sensitive guy…at some point though you have to be able to compartmentalize and block that stuff out.”
I think Mark just summed up the thoughts of Pacers fans everywhere.
“I think he will, man, he’s playing good right now.” Chris K. said, “I think he’s going to wake up and have a good series.”
WHO HAS THE BIGGER SERIES: LEBRON JAMES OR PAUL GEORGE?
Of course everyone is now holding their breath after George’s concussion in the forth quarter of Game 2. George had a better game than Lebron in Game 1, with more assists, timely three-pointers and of course his team coming out on top. In Game 2, Lebron took control as only he can do.
“I hope Paul George plays really well, but Lebron James is arguably the best player on the planet,” Mark said. “Now, who would I rather have taking a last second shot? Probably Paul George.”
Chris K. kept it short and sweet, “Paul George.”
Chris said, “I want Paul George to. I mean, Lebron — you can’t really stop him, you can only slow him down but not stop him. Kind of like Michael [Jordan] back in the day.”
Ain’t that the truth. But he isn’t accustomed to such competitive defense from a fellow star, so let’s hope George will be able to play in Game 3.
WHO IS PACER NATION’S LEAST FAVORITE HEAT PLAYER?
“Lebron,” Chris K. said.
“Probably Birdman, ” Mark said, turning to the man next to him at the bar. “He just said a little bit ago, he’s the white Dennis Rodman. But he’s the type of guy you hate unless he’s on your team. Kind of like [Bill] Laimbeer back in the day.”
I like this answer, it’s honest and I tend to agree with his assessment. Birdman isn’t a superstar but he’s the type of energy guy that can change a game. He is also known to ruffle some feathers, pun or not. He’s that type of guy the home team likes and the visitors absolutely despise.
Chris took a few seconds of introspection and came up with, “Dwayne Wade.”
As you can see, Pacer Nation has no shortage of dislike for a multitude of Heat players. There isn’t just one player that Pacers fans dislike. In all honesty, it’s probably just the whole team because of how the last two postseasons have shook out. Not to mention, no one likes the team that’s building a dynasty.
SO … WHAT’S THE PULSE?
This is a true rivalry in every sense of the word. There is real passion and real hatred between these two teams — and especially the fan bases. It’s a beautiful thing to witness and experience in a bar filled with Pacers fans eagerly wanting to dethrone the Lebron James-led Heat. Pacers fans want to beat the Heat not one, not two, not three, but four times in this series for a chance to play for the championship for the first time since Reggie Miller was in town.
But Pacer Nation is very realistic and not letting the hype get to them.
They understand that this series will be a tough one to win. Even after the Pacers opened up a nice lead in Game 1 and the beer started flowing, Pacer Nation still remained level-headed. Much respect.
The Pacers’ struggles late in the regular season tempered a lot of the expectations for the playoffs, but after Game 1 how can Pacers fans not be excited? If Lance Stephenson keeps playing like he did in Game 2, the Pacers may be able to steal one of the next two games in Miami. If this series is tied 2-2 heading back to Indy, just imagine the excitement that will flow from Bankers Life Fieldhouse encompassing the entire city.
Until next time, Cheers!
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