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Indiana Pacers Need an Enforcer Or to Become One As A Team

by ja on 5/25/2012 11:23:29 AM

Last night was Game 6 of the Miami Heat vs Indiana Pacers. Normally I'm either trying to get a kid to sleep or working frantically on an update to the fantasy tools SignAndTrade offers, but last night was different. Last night the baby fell asleep during the pregame show - about 20 minutes earlier than usual. It was glorious!  Last night, the wife wasn't feeling well so she went to bed early. I don't take joy that she didn't feel well, but I won't lie and say that it wasn't nice to have some time to watch playoff bball without distractions.

So, let me start by saying I was pumped about this game. Larry Bird's comments had been running through my head all day about how he was let down by the fact that the Pacers had been S-O-F-T in the previous game. Miami had gone home after game 4, stepped into their building on their home court and decided that they wanted to send a message to the Pacers. They physically  manhandled the Pacers. And the Pacers, almost to a man, took it. But after Larry Bird called out his team I just knew that game 6 was going to be some kind of retro 1990 grudge game. Bodies flying, stare downs and bow ups, technical fouls being called to a point that the refs just couldn't call any more because they didn't want to throw out the stars. You know, what playoff basketball should be by the time game 6 rolls around. It was going be controlled chaos. Indiana was gonna take the role of Detroit and  Wade / Lebron were going to have to assume the role Jordan. They were going to have to earn a win and the respect of the fans (as opposed to just the adulation) - It was gonna be awesome!

But alas, we ended up with a pile of stink. It was a decent game, and yeah, as Rasheed Wallace would say, both teams played hard. But other than that it was kind of sad. The Pacers jumped out of the gate and took off to an early lead. They turned the ball over several times in the first quarter which allowed Miami to stay in it, but those turnovers weren't the important thing. What was important was that I never once saw a message delivered by a Pacer that they weren't soft and that the game wasn't going to be a cake walk for Wade and Lebron - that Miami's dynamic duo wouldn't be able to just go to the rim anytime they wanted. I never saw that Indiana "got the hearts right". Maybe players were afraid of being ejected. Maybe they didn't want to take a chance on being suspended. More likely though, maybe the Pacers actually are S-O-F-T.

I think Indiana is going to have some soul searching to do. They're a good team and a young team. They'll get better even if their roster doesn't change. But not enough better to win a championship - not enough better for Larry Bird. Larry is going to have to find himself  a tough guy. Somebody like Haslem who will put it on someone if that is what is necessary. Somebody like Charles Barkley who once said if someone came down the lane repeatedly that eventually he'd give them a good hard foul. Not to hurt them, but just to let them know he was thinking about 'em.

Wade And Lebron together combined for about 50% shooting in game 6 and a LOT of those shots were layups. The way to beat Miami is to keep those two guys away from the rim - for someone to place a boundary around that rim and then enforce it - with escalating amounts of force as necessary. Hibbert can protect the rim by blocking shots, but that's simply not the same thing. I just don't see anyone on Indiana's current roster who has the mindset to be that guy, and more problematically the team as a unit doesn't seem to have the heart to do it on a long term basis like they did in game 3. They've got to find out how to tap into that every night or they'll have to get used to early playoff exits.

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