May 28, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Pacers forward Paul George (24) reacts after game five against the Miami Heat of the Eastern Conference Finals of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Indiana defeats Miami 93-90. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Pacers on Their Last Breath, Fighting For Air In Game 6

Game 6 is upon us, with the fate of the Indiana Pacers hanging in the balance.

The Eastern Conference Finals could be a wrap with a home win for the Miami Heat, or could be extended to a Game 7 this Sunday.  Four consecutive trips to the NBA Finals is impressive, and a rare feat that only three teams have accomplished in the last 60 years.  Bill Russell’s Boston Celtics, Magic Johnson’s Lakers, and Larry Bird’s Celtics accomplished it, and that’s illustrious company to be joining if you’re LeBron James.

However, the Pacers aren’t finished.  Not yet.  As long as Paul George is feeling like a fourth quarter champion, and Lance Stephenson is a servant blowing on the neck of a King, there’s a chance.

In today’s NBA, a playoff series escalates in excitement once a team wins on the road.  Indiana is yet to do that in these East Finals, with the only road win coming by Miami in Game 2.  Last season, the Pacers were the first ones able to grab a win away from home in Game 2, after being demoralized by a buzzer beater in Game 1.

A team’s season is on the line.  Although, looking past this series and the playoffs as a whole, the future is also at stake for this Indiana group.  Two possible outcomes in Game 6 set up various situations, only one that Indiana wants to be a part of.


If the Pacers win Game 6

We’re talking about a win-or-go-home Game 7 for both the Pacers and Heat, in Bankers Life Fieldhouse.  A number of questions will arise in this series, including the ridiculousness that Lance Stephenson has gotten into James’ head, ear blowing and all.

The momentum will shift, and the unthinkable could be on hand.  Miami is yet to lose three straight playoff games in their tenure with James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh.  Indiana will have the chance to be the “little engine that could” and stop a franchise from entering dynasty mode.

Game 7 is what the Pacers hoped and dreamed for, this time in a more favorable location.  In Game 5, James was hit with early foul disaster trouble, and many are buying into the idea that home cooking could have been a cause.  In reality, all superstars face a once-a-year (or so) game where they rack up a number of unfortunate calls and nearly foul out.  The NBA’s officiating is a lot more respected than that of the NFL or MLB, so the talk of deliberate foul-calling should end immediately.

Getting the job completed on the road — where Indiana is 5-3 in the playoffs — would also alter hundreds of opinions on this series.  The list of those that believe Miami can walk into Indianapolis and win a Game 7 is quite long, but you would have to question their ability to overcome the pride and heart Indiana would have gained.  Winning two straight games vs. the defending champs would mean something, and the confidence it gives a group is insurmountable.

Game 7 would come down to getting to the foul line (as they did 37 times in Game 1), and having their veteran rise to the occasion.  That veteran is David West, who was in the building for Game 5.  History of this postseason shows, he may enter the zone for Game 6 as well.

In Game 6, the West pick-and-pop will be the most crucial component of the offense.  It’s how he was able to escape Atlanta with a win in the first round, and nothing has changed.  In this series (five games), West has nailed 41.7 percent of his mid-range attempts.  Of those that have taken at least 20 mid-range attempts in this series, West ranks second, behind only Chris Bosh (46.2 percent).  Let the battle of power forwards begin.  It’s Miami’s, however, that can be an executor from 3-point range.


If the Pacers lose Game 6

It wouldn’t be as embarrassing as it would if they fell short Wednesday, in Game 5.  For three quarters, the Pacers flirted with elimination and nearly lost the series 4-1, getting outplayed in every game but the series opener.

Depending on how Larry Bird still views Stephenson’s antics after this series — since Lance poked the wrong polar bear at the zoo — the price tag on their starting shooting guard may drop.  Stephenson is the life and energy of Indiana, and re-signing him is a must, but if the organization isn’t comfortable paying loads for a guy that has a split personality (Good Lance, Bad Lance), they may go a different route.  Teams in the market may become desperate for talent, which Stephenson definitely possesses, and step into the territory of overpaying for him.  Being in a contract year is always a high deal of pressure for a player, and Lance has handled it in an up and down manner.  Near the All-Star break, he was making general managers’ eyes widen, then they began to shut when he hit a skid.  Who knows where his value is today.

The makeup of this roster, which doesn’t include a true point guard, will raise some more eyebrows.  I’m sure everyone has explored the notion that Bird will blow things up if they can’t dethrone the East’s best duo.  George Hill, love him or hate him personality wise, will have more scrutiny come his way, and ideas will be entertained regarding a trade for a traditional floor general.  Rajon Rondo, Ty Lawson, or someone unhappy with their current unit, will begin marking Indiana down as a potential landing spot.

More importantly for the league, a dynasty will be created.  This loss would propel the Miami Heat into a greater legacy, seeing as how they’ve never came short of a Finals appearance since joining together.  That’s a pool of success no matter how you look at it.

And, lets be honest, do we really believe in our brains that this inconsistent group of guys can handle the assassins from San Antonio?


Tags: Chris Bosh David West George Hill Indiana Pacers Lance Stephenson LeBron James Paul George

  • poot

    i dont get it. is America stupid? or just lazy?
    why is everyone just listening to the media and accepting what they have to say?

    especially considering they are all giving the same generic opinion, with little to no support.

    What i refer to, specifically, is “Miami has proven to be the better team” and “Miami has dominated the majority of this series”

    both of those points are flagrantly incorrect. Indiana has been the better team this series. and i would go to lengths to say they’ve been a MUCH better team this series, at least 50% better than the Heat.

    Paul George summed it up best “each of these teams will make runs, we just have to be the team that makes the LAST run”. so far Miami has been lucky in that 2 of the 3 “Close” games, they’ve made the final run and ended up with the W.

    Pacers hold the LEAD in the game:
    Game 1: 100%
    Game 2: ~61%
    Game 3: ~70%
    Game 4: 0%
    Game 5: ~75%
    SERIES: ~60%

    If you judged W/L by who leads the majority of the game, Pacers would have already won this series 4-1.
    If you judged W/L by who leads the majority of the series, Pacers would currently be ahead in the series 3-2.

    But alas, it is decided by the score after 48 arbitrary minutes. The division lines between games signal wins and losses, and Miami has been fortunate to be ahead of Indiana 3 of 5 games.

    But the series is 2-3 for Indiana.
    and consider the 3 losses- the Paul George concussion game, and the two games following that concussion (which he probably should not have played)
    Miami is a DWade knee to the head of PG from going fishing. Instead they will play it out tonight.

    I dont know if the Pacers will win. I personally would not moneyline them tonight (though i dont have money on them beating the +7.5 spread)

    But to say Miami has been dominant this series is assinine. it’s lazy. and it’s pathetic.
    drink the kool-aid: “lebron is god” “pacers dont deserve their success”

    or think for yourself… whatever.

    • Bill

      Lol Miami was simply better. They showed it tonight. Let Lance walk. Bring in a solid starting point guard and add a true shooting guard next to PG/West/Hibbert. Interesting summer to say the least.

  • Adam Spunberg

    Solid article (this coming from a Heat fan). Just wanted to point out: Heat did actually lose three in a row to the Mavericks in the 2011 Finals (They were up 2-1 and then lost Games 4, 5, and 6).

    My only disagreement is over the LeBron calls in Game 5. Those can’t just be attributed to randomness. Especially when LeBron had four fouls, any other game or situation, they don’t give him that fifth foul. Not saying it’s a conspiracy, but a lot of my neutral friends even thought those fouls on LeBron were highly questionable. And I say this also freely admitting Heat got better end of the calls in Game 4. I expect they will tonight too, back at home.

    • poot

      Thanks for your post Adam. whenever Pacers/Heat meet in the playoffs, Pacers boards are inidated with heat trolls *(cough*disquz troll*cough*) who spew bias non-sense while trying to sound intelligent, reasonably, or with a sense of perspective. They fail miserably but have so little self awareness that they think people actually value their opinions and dont see it as common trolling. You however had a nice post, so i wanted to thank you for that.

      as for the Lebron fouls, it is hard to argue conspiracy. it was merely Lebron/Spo gambling that the refs would not dare call another foul on Lebron after he got in foul trouble. and the gamble failed. would those calls have been made 100% of the time? no. but he put himself in position for the calls, and he got burned.

      foul #1, tripping George. this is called nearly 100% of the time. hard to argue this call, especially considering it was 6 minutes into the game and Lebron was playing poorly. “oh yeah lets give lebron phantom fouls to slow down his amazing performance…” unlikely.

      foul #2, lebron fouls Hill on a layup. this is a 50:50 call. either call it or dont. but the fact is Hill was aggressive, made a good move, and drew contact. some say “play on” and i would agree in this case, but half the times ref make this call. It was right at the end of the 1st quarter, when Lebron usually takes a rest anyway, so it’s not like it was a plan by the refs to take him out of the game. i dont think it should have been called a foul, but this one gets called on BOTH ends, a lot.

      foul #3, offensive foul on Lebron. This is the one that everyone gets up in arms about. However, it is the right call, it’s been replayed many times and George was in position for either an offensive foul or a play on. JVG and Jackson both agreed, and the numerous angles of GIFs out there support it, bang-bang play, but probably more right than wrong. The deciding factor? Context. The play before, Hibbert got called for a BULLSHIT offensive foul. It was horrible and replays confirmed it was not even close. so Pacers were pushing hard for an offensive foul on the next Heat possession. they tried it twice on that play, first there was a no call and the ball went loose, ending up in Lebron’s hands. the second time, they couldnt do a no call again. not after calling a questionable (at best) one on hibbert and followed by a no-call. George drew the whistle, and it was 100% the right call.

      foul #4, reach in on Hibbert. 100% the right call. Lebron even raises his hand to admit it was on him, right away. this was a stupid play by Lebron, and you should note that he does not make the right decision every time.

      foul #5, fouling Lance on the loose ball. ok this one could have gone either way. Lance strips Lebron cleanly. The ball goes loose. they bump each other trying to get it. Maybe Lance bumps Lebron first. But Lebron clearly uses his body to keep Lance from pursuing the loose ball, an easy call. Maybe they should have called Lance first, but refs rarely see the first hit. It’s Lebrons fault for retaliating with 4 fouls. He got stripped and embarrassed, and he made a horrible decision. 50:50 call, sure, but somebody had to get the call, and Lebron made the last hit.

      so there you have it. two of the fouls are called 100% of the time. two of them Lebron clearly commits a foul, but in cases that arent always called, espcially to players who expect star treatment. and the other may have been a makeup call, at worst a 50:50 call.

      just helping you understand why those fouls were called. they werent trying to get Lebron out of the game. Lebron made bad decisions. as did Spo. They gambled that Lebron would receive star treatment, and failed on the gamble. You realize the game would have been much different if Spo took Lebron out after foul #4? Don’t blame the refs, this was something the Heat were in control of, took a greedy gamble, and failed.