Pundits will debate about which team this regular season game means more to, but the truth is tonight is merely a small snapshot of a bigger, broader picture for the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers — something with a long term effect greater than first place.
“If they can’t do it this time with these pieces, maybe they’ve got to think about breaking up the pieces and trying another way,” Denver Nuggets coach Brian Shaw said of Indiana to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
Unfortunately that’s the cold reality for the Pacers this season after they came in so bold and arrogant about this being their time because of how close they came to dethroning the champs the last two years.
But with losses come questions, and their 7-7 month of March struggles just make them louder. Which is why Shaw wondered if his former team just might not be good enough to jump over the hump, the same way Chris Webber’s Sacramento Kings and Rasheed Wallace’s Portland Trail Blazers couldn’t eclipse his (really Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant’s) Los Angeles Lakers.
Make no mistake, if the Pacers fail to reach the NBA Finals, the whispers will begin to creep up — especially with this year’s triple-double machine (Lance Stephenson) heading into free agency.
Critics will wonder if the New York City kid will use his breakout season to literally break out of small market Indiana for a bigger role and more money. Fans will be scared to fathom the thought that Roy Hibbert may not be a dominant center and Paul George may not be the guy.
And the same fate could await Miami. It’s championship or bust — with bust meaning the possible end of the Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James era.
So there we have it. These are two teams dealing with a month of underachieving while truly baring the weight of their franchise’s futures on their shoulders. No wonder everyone expects there to be blood whenever they take the court.