In today’s twenty-four-hour news environment heroes are manufactured by the day; losses are overanalyzed and dramatized by the night.
It’s par for the course.
Outside of the Los Angeles Lakers or the New York Knicks, arguably no other team in the NBA is under the microscope like the Miami HEAT have been since LeBron James and Chris Bosh decided to join up with Dwyane Wade in the summer of 2010. But for once, all of the pre-game hysteria may have some credibility.
The Miami HEAT are in serious trouble.
The Indiana Pacers have not only backed up their pre-series tough talk, but have captured the momentum and lead their Eastern Conference Semifinal series over Miami 2-1, with game four at home on Sunday.
The HEAT, playing without their much maligned All-Star power forward Chris Bosh, are mirroring fish out of water, and the Pacers’ self-belief in actually being able to pull off the monumental upset is growing by the second.
“We definitely feel like we can win this series, and we felt that coming into this series,” Pacers head coach Frank Vogel confidently told Mike Wells of the Indianapolis Star. “Obviously, with them being undermanned with [Chris] Bosh being out, we feel even stronger about it. But how we feel is irrelevant. We’ve got to get the job done between the lines.”
Point blank, the Pacers smell blood and the Miami HEAT will have to dig deep to overcome their new batch of adversity. But Miami’s problems penetrate much deeper than missing Bosh, who is likely out of the lineup for the next three weeks. Missing in action during the entire series has been 2006 Finals MVP Dwyane Wade.
On the surface Wade’s average of 19.3 points doesn’t cause much concern, but his shooting percentage of 31 percent (18-of-58) are a direct indication that he’s bothered by the length of the defenders Indiana is using to keep him off balance. Wade’s frustration blew over in the second half of Thursday’s game and he had to be restrained by teammates from head coach Erik Spoelstra on the sidelines during a timeout.
Spoelstra tried to downplay the brouhaha, while acknowledging the event, during his postgame news conference.
“Anybody that’s a part of a team, been a coach, been a player, you have no idea how often things like that happen,” Spoelstra said. “It was during a very emotional part of the game. We were getting our butts kicked. Those exchanges happen during an NBA season. There are going to be a lot of times when guys say something you don’t like, you get over it and move on. Dwyane and I have been together a long time, a long time. We’ve been through everything together, in a lot of different roles. That was really nothing. That’s the least of our concerns. That kind of fire, shoot, that’s good.”
Regardless of the spin, infighting is never a good ingredient for a team losing steam. But the HEAT’s problems don’t end with Bosh’s absence and Wade’s struggles. To stymie the momentum of the Pacers, the HEAT desperately need a road win in game four. Unfortunately, winning on the road hasn’t been a given for the team all season.
After winning 68 percent of their road contests in 2011, the HEAT stumbled to a mediocre 18-15 (54 percent win rate) mark away from home this season. In the 2012 playoffs the HEAT have already dropped two out of four road games. But the HEAT’s problems don’t end with Bosh’s absence, Wade’s struggles or road woes.
Pacers All-Star center Roy Hibbert has dominated Miami to the tune of 14.7 points, 13.3 rebounds and 3 blocks per game in the series. In game three Hibbert posted 19 points, 18 rebounds and 5 blocks. Miami’s three centers, Dexter Pittman, Joel Anthony and Ronny Turiaf combined for 15 points and nine rebounds.
In addition, playoff-tested veterans Shane Battier and Udonis Haslem have been rendered non-existent by the Pacers’ stifling defense. Battier, a career 38 percent three-point shooter with well over 1,000 connects is just 1-for-9 from downtown in the series’ first three games. Haslem, a key reserve for the team, played in only seven minutes in Thursday’s loss and is averaging a pedestrian 2 points and 4.3 rebounds in the series.
Pacers small forward Danny Granger probably summed it up best when talking about the headlines Miami is likely to generate over the next couple days.
“I love it,” Granger said. “I really do love it. Because it motivates us, motivates me even more. We’ll never be the story line. When we win, it’ll never be what the Pacers did right, it’ll be what the HEAT did wrong.”
Maybe, just maybe the Pacers do have the better team and this shouldn’t come as a shock.
But one thing is for certain right now, if the HEAT are going to live up to their championship aspirations they’ll have to overcome an opponent who has them clearly on the ropes loading up for a brutal knockout blow.
Game four tips Sunday at 3:30pm EST.
Andre Miller Remaining In Denver? Earlier this season a frustrated Andre Miller, told FOX Sports’ Chris Tomasson, that he wasn’t thrilled with his role with the Denver Nuggets as a reserve point guard behind the emerging Ty Lawson. Miller, an unrestricted free agent this summer, didn’t want to serve as a mentor and didn’t feel his starting days were in the rearview, which led many to believe that once the season ended his tenure with Denver would be over as well.
Miller may have changed his tune and adjusted to his role playing behind Lawson according to Nuggets general manager Masai Ujiri.
“I had a great meeting with Andre Miller,” Ujiri told Benjamin Hochman of the Denver Post. “He wants to be respected as a veteran, which we feel he has to be respected as a veteran. He even said to me that Ty (Lawson) helped him, because the minutes he played, he took care of his body, he didn’t play as many minutes. I think Andre’s looking forward to being on this team, I think he likes the role. I can’t discuss contracts, but it’s stuff we’re going to talk about and figure out.”
The Nuggets currently have $ 51 million in contract commitments already on the books for the 2013 season. This figure doesn’t include the qualifying offers expected to be issued to JaVale McGee and Rudy Fernandez which would make both players restricted free agents.
Miller earned $ 7.8 million this season and maintains a home in the Denver area.
“Do we want Andre back? Yes,” Ujiri reiterated. “Collectively, the organization, ownerships, Coach Karl, teammates, we want Andre back. He was great for the team.”
The Nuggets finished the season 38-28 and earned a sixth seed in the Western Conference playoffs. The team was eliminated by the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round of the playoffs in seven games.
Miller averaged 11.3 points, 6 assists and 5.6 rebounds in the series.
Ray Allen Content With Diminishing Role: Throughout his sixteen year career Boston Celtics shooting guard Ray Allen has been a prime time playoff performer.
However, his 2012 postseason averages of 11.3 points and 29.7 minutes are far below his normal playoff production stat lines. In fact, during game three of Boston’s ongoing second round matchup versus the Philadelphia 76ers, Allen managed to get up only one field goal attempt in 25 minutes of action.
Allen isn’t feeling the need to assert himself more offensively as long as the wins keep coming and veteran forward Kevin Garnett continues to turn back the hands of time in the post.
“It’s the playoffs. You have to play to your second and third options, and try to get easy baskets,” Allen told Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald. “They’re trying to take me and Paul (Pierce) out of the game, and Paul yesterday attacked early, and (Rajon) Rondo attacked in transition. Those plays are tough to stop. When I’m coming off of screens they’re sending two guys at me, so to be out there I have to have some impact other than scoring. “It’s great (how Garnett is playing). I know at times he gets tired when it looks like we’re going to him a lot. I want to help him as much as I can. He told me last night we have to do whatever we can to get you open, and I said, ‘Kevin, you’re the guy who’s getting the shots and scoring. We just won by 20. I don’t need, for the sake of my ego, anything like that. We just have to keep doing what we’re doing. We’ll keep getting you the ball.’ ”
Celtics head coach Doc Rivers credited the Sixers’ defensive approach for causing some problems for his team offensively, but applauded his guys for finding other ways to contribute.
“Philly is a good defensive team and they’re going to take us out of some stuff,” Rivers said. “They’re top-blocking Ray and face-guarding Ray. The same thing with Paul — they’re trapping Paul for the most part off of every pick-and-roll and they’re trapping him off the post. That means you may not get as many shots as usual, but you have to do other stuff.”
The Celtics lead the series 2-1, with game four set for Friday in Philadelphia.
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