Wednesday, May 28, 2014
The Pacers are in a hole, but they aren't dead as they trail the Heat 3-1 in the Eastern Conference Finals
The Indiana Pacers currently trail the Miami Heat 3-1 in the Eastern Conference Finals with Game 5 happening later tonight in Indiana (8:30 PM ET on ESPN). Things no doubt look bleak for the Pacers right now. After taking Game 1 at home against the Heat, things have quickly swung in favor of the Heat, resulting in 3 straight wins for the defending champs. The key problem for the Pacers is that Roy Hibbert has slowed down a little bit after appearing to have found his groove against the Wizards, and Lance Stephenson has virtually disappeared in the last two games of the series, averaging just 9.5 points per game in Games 3 and 4. Stephenson's struggles have been due to foul trouble and a lack of aggression. If the Pacers can get Hibbert and Stephenson to wake up the rest of this series, the Pacers do have a chance, albeit a slim chance. How is that possible? The answer lies in the simple fact that the Pacers have Game 5 and Game 7* (If Necessary) scheduled in Indiana and also the fact that it's really hard to hold serve against a team like the Pacers for an entire series.
I picked the Pacers before the playoffs started to get to the NBA Finals and I picked them to beat the Heat in 7 games once the series began. The reason was simple: Home court advantage. In the NBA, playing at home is more important than in any other sport. The refs give you the calls, the fans get into the heads of the road team, and role players always play better at home. Those three reasons make it really difficult to win on the road in the playoffs, and I think should the Pacers force a Game 7, they will win this series.
As for the Heat, they just have to take care of business at home to beat the Pacers and the series is theirs. But can we really expect the Pacers to go down to Miami for a third time and come up empty handed? I don't think we can. The Pacers have been fantastic on the road this post-season, which means one has to think they get at least one game down in Miami. I think odds look fairly good that this series still goes to a Game 7, and if it does, the Pacers will have home court, which is huge for reasons I just mentioned.
Now, if the Pacers want to force a Game 7 and walk away winning this series, they have to do two things: Get Lance Stephenson going and get easy buckets inside. Paul George may be the engine of this Pacers team, but Lance Stephenson is what fuels the engine. His hustle, passion, and toughness has been the X-factor for the Pacers all post-season. He doesn't necessarily need to score a lot of points for the Pacers to win this series, but they do need him out on the floor scrapping for loose balls and hustling. If he gets into serious foul trouble early in any game going forward, the Pacers are probably cooked. As for getting easy buckets inside, this is pretty self explanatory. The Pacers aren't a great three point shooting team, but they do possess good low-post scorers. Roy Hibbert and David West have to get a lot of touches going forward and beat up the Heat's vulnerable inside. If the Pacers succeed in the paint, then their odds of winning this series go up dramatically .
I know that statistically speaking the Pacers look doomed when you look at numbers that say "Only 8 out of 217 teams down 3-1 have come back to win a playoff series" but I still think there is great hope for the Pacers. I think they should win Game 5, and I also think their odds of winning Game 6 aren't crazy low. I think that the third time can be the charm in Miami, which brings us to a Game 7 in Indiana, which I think they would win if they get to that point. I may sound overly optimistic, but all I'm saying is that there's a chance the Pacers win this series, and a chance is all the Pacers need.
---Ben Parker: follow me on twitter @nba_lord for NBA news. My personal twitter handle is @slamdunk406