When it comes to a game seven where the winner goes to the NBA Finals and the loser goes home, there’s really no need to build up drama. They don’t make any moments bigger than this one in the NBA, and both the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers know that. All that remains to be seen is who rises to the occasion.
We all know that the Heat have been in this situation before and were actually in game seven of the Eastern Conference Finals just last year. It feels safe to assume that we are going to witness a locked-in LeBron James and probably a more aggressive Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, if Wade is capable with his knee injury.
However, it’s hard to know what to expect from this Pacers team. The only player on this team that has been to this stage of the playoffs before is Ian Mahinmi, who isn’t exactly an x-factor for Indiana. They have seized the moment and stayed strong and confident throughout this entire series, but game seven is an entirely different beast.
There’s no question that Paul George and Roy Hibbert have been the leaders for the Pacers in this series. George is averaging 21.5 points, 5.3 assists and 5.8 rebounds per game on 50 percent shooting and 46.7 percent shooting from distance against the Heat. Hibbert has been equally as impressive, putting up 22.8 points, 10.8 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game on 54.7 percent shooting versus Miami. That doesn’t even fully factor in how effective they both have been defensively in the series, as well. They have played like stars on the big stage that this series has offered.
Just because Hibbert and George have been great in this series, though, doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily going to continue in game seven. There’s nothing in basketball that matches the pressure of a decisive game in a big series and the Pacers, George and Hibbert in particular, have never experienced that. There’s no question they have been stars in this series, but there’s still a palpable chance that they will fold in this decisive game or at least not perform at as high of a level.
If Hibbert and George are able to ignore the pressure and continue their productivity, the Pacers will have a chance to knock off the defending champions. They will still need contributions from role players like George Hill and Lance Stephenson, but they’ll have an opportunity for a victory if Hibbert and George show up. If those two players crumble, even just slightly, in game seven, though, the Pacers really don’t stand a chance.