The Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat met in a clash of titans as the Eastern Conference’s best two teams collided on Tuesday night. With records of 18-3 and 16-5 coming into the game, respectively, it looked to be a tight matchup between two powerhouses. The real story of the night was the Pacers’ big comeback win in which many analysts and fans will use as a way to say that Indiana is the better team. Hold your horses, kids.
Let’s remember the not-so-distant playoffs in which the Heat bested the Pacers in a riveting, seven-game series. One game does not a champion make and, despite the win Tuesday night, the Pacers still have plenty to prove.
To Indiana’s credit, the team seemed to do everything right on the way to the six-point win. One of the biggest contributing factors to their win was the all-around team scoring as four Pacers had at least 12 points. Leading the way was their big center, Roy Hibbert, who simply dominated the Heat’s big men, scoring 24 points on 10-15 shooting.
The fact that the Pacers came back from being down by double digits in the first half and held the Heat off easily for most of the fourth quarter is a promising sign. Nevertheless, any Pacers fan who tries to boast this game as surefire proof that their favorite team is better needs to take a chill pill.
While Hibbert was able to expose one of Miami’s biggest weaknesses and the Pacer defense was strong, there are issues we can learn about Indiana from this game. One of the most glaring problems was the Pacers’ need to play their starters so much. The five starters averaged about 35 minutes played each and the bench players, aside from maybe Luis Scola, really did not contribute all that much. The Heat looked to be a bit deeper which could play a crucial role in a long series.
Similarly, the first half play of Paul George should be unnerving for Pacers fans. You don’t need to tell me that George is one of the best second half scorers in the NBA; I already know that and with most of his 17 points coming after the intermission, he again proved his ability to score late. The problem with this is that the Heat are not going to give up double digit leads on a regular basis. If George cannot keep the Pacers in games the whole way through, Indiana will struggle with having to play from behind all the time.
The Pacers and their fans should certainly celebrate this momentous win, but they should also keep what it means in perspective. This was one game just barely one fourth of the way through the NBA season. Indiana will do well to build on this win but should remember that there is a long way to go before they can legitimately dethrone LeBron James and Miami as the Eastern Conference Champions.