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Ragnar
05-06-2004, 11:13 AM
Tall order for the Heat: Getting past the Pacers

BY ISRAEL GUTIERREZ

igutierrez@herald.com

http://www.miami.com/images/miami/miamiherald/8603/74013775956.jpg
It sounds easy.

At least Lamar Odom, the best on the Heat roster at simplifying complicated strategies and defining basketball jargon, can make it sound so.

''We played against Indiana [three] times during the year,'' Odom said. ``If you play in the NBA and you don't know that Indiana's going to go inside to Jermaine O'Neal and look to him to win the game, then you're lost in the storm.

``You don't even have to watch ESPN for that.''

But knowing what's coming and actually doing something to stop it takes more than any specialty cable programming can provide. For the Heat, limiting O'Neal and the Indiana post-up game will be key to the second-round playoff series between the Pacers and Heat that begins tonight at Conseco Fieldhouse.

But adding to the Heat's problems is the fact that the team had one day to prepare for the inside-out Pacers game after spending a full three weeks trying to limit the Hornets' perimeter attack. That's a 180-degree turnaround.

Switching gears that quickly will prove to be the Heat's most difficult test.

''The challenge for us right now is to make sure we do enough to feel prepared without overwhelming guys now,'' Heat coach Stan Van Gundy said. ``They've spent 21 days on one game plan, basically. Now we have to flip it all around in one day. We want to have them ready, but I don't want to overwhelm them.''

O'NEAL FACTOR

Just the mention of O'Neal to an undersized, perimeter-heavy Heat team can be overwhelming enough. But then again, so was the thought of limiting Baron Davis in a seven-game series.

In the six games in which Davis played more than 30 minutes against the Heat in the first round, the guard averaged 20.3 points and 7.5 assists, almost single-handedly extending the series whenever it seemed the Heat had control. In three regular-season games against the Heat, the 6-11 O'Neal has averaged 22.3 points and 12.7 rebounds.

So what's harder, keeping an elite point guard from beating you or stopping a premier post player from dominating you? It depends on whom you ask.

Eddie Jones, a guard, says the Heat's most difficult individual task is behind it.

''What's harder is Baron Davis,'' Jones said. ``He's going to have the ball bringing it up the floor, and the way he handles the ball, he's so creative. I think Baron Davis is tough.

``I think if we can make [O'Neal] make decisions, it benefits us because big guys aren't used to having the ball in their hands and making all types of moves off the dribble or making decisions.''

Says Odom, a big man with a guard's mentality: ``This is a big man's game. When you've got 6-11 guys that are close to the basket, it's always harder when a big man can control the game. A big man catches the ball and he's three feet away from the basket. A guard has the ball and he's looking to make his move at the three-point line. So it's much harder to prepare for digging, doubling down and rotating out when a big man gets it. When a guard comes on a pick-and-roll, you blitz him and get the ball out of his hands.''

Van Gundy, who normally sees disaster coming from every direction anyway, says it's all virtually impossible -- especially when the opposition's stud player is surrounded by impressive talent.

''Any premier guy is tough,'' Van Gundy said. ``And the teams are tough. If you've got a guy who you don't have to guard on the other team, even if he has great players with him, you're at a major advantage because now you can load up on guys. But when you're playing a team where everybody's a threat and you have to put two guys on the ball, that's always difficult. That makes the decisions tough.''

LIMITED TIME

So what's the decision on O'Neal? And can the Heat execute it despite limited practice time?

That's for Game 1 to play out. Van Gundy's options seem fairly clear. He can ask his best post defender, Brian Grant, to play O'Neal one-on-one as much as possible, forcing O'Neal to put on his best array of post moves to defeat Miami.

Or he can ask Grant's teammates to help by either crowding O'Neal or coming with an all-out double-team. Neither option is foolproof.

''[O'Neal] is a guy that is much harder for us to keep from the ball than, say, [Jamaal] Magloire,'' Van Gundy said. ``Because of his quickness and the way he moves his feet, it's tough for us to get around and front him. We'll try as much as we can, but it's not as easy.

``And [O'Neal's] able to just get shots over the top pretty much whenever he wants them. And we'll probably have to give him some double-teams to try to get him to throw the ball out. That's a double-edged sword, too, because they're one of the best three-point shooting teams.''

O'Neal wouldn't recommend the Heat send a double-team.

''It's hard to really help [on defense] with our team because we have a lot of shooters,'' the second-team All-NBA forward said. ``If they're going to put guys in my lap, so be it. You have guys who can go out and knock down shots.

``You have Reggie Miller out there. I don't know if I would pull guys off him, and you have Jamaal [Tinsley] knocking down three-point shots this year, and Fred Jones coming in knocking down jumpers. So we have a lot of guys who can come in and break you, and we have guys who can put the ball on the floor and get to the basket. You have to pick your poison.''

The Heat spent Wednesday trying to figure which vial to drink from. None seemed appealing. There's a reason the Pacers finished the season with the best record in the NBA and are widely considered a title contender, and O'Neal is the biggest one.

QUICK RELIEF

With that in mind, maybe the Heat is better off not spending too much time dwelling on the imposing task ahead. Maybe preparing for the Pacers is like tearing off a Band-Aid: Do it quickly before the pain and fear set in.

''You can't feel as prepared,'' Dwyane Wade said of the second-round series. ``We're hopping right into it. You just have to go off the game plan that [the coaches] give you, then pretty much go out there and play basketball.

``The game plan can only work so much. You have to put the ball in the hole and you have to defend.''

Ragnar
05-06-2004, 11:14 AM
Pacers' villains can spew venom -- and points


Heat fans did what they could, trying to manufacture a villain.

New Orleans Hornet Robert Traylor was a rather gooey and substantive target, eating cheesecake in sideline timeout huddles when he wasn't being ejected for cheap-shotting Eddie Jones.

So, Traylor entered Tuesday to an avalanche of boos while screaming fans heckled him with taunts of ''Traylor Trash'' and a couple of creative ones waved long sticks at him with Burger King and Wendy's fast-food bags attached to the end as bait.

''I like this!'' a jiggling, nodding Traylor shouted to his teammates above the boos as he entered Game 7, but he wasn't a real villain.

You can't be when you score all of 10 points in seven games and don't even play in three of them. Traylor was just a 284-pound appetizer, ladies and gentlemen, but we're about to get our villains jumbo-sized.

It isn't just Reggie Miller, who picked a fight with all of New York once and won. It's Ron Artest, just about the baddest thing this sport has seen since Detroit's bad-boy days. There were a few drops of blood spilled in that violent Hornets series, but South Florida upgrades to hate now.

EASY TO DISLIKE

You will grow to dislike them, and you will like it. It's OK. No need for confession. Sports is one of the world's only places that allows you to spew pure, unfiltered hatred while feeling good about it.

And Indiana gives you two cartoon characters who enjoy being awash in it. The delicious basketball villain has been something of a dinosaur since Bill Laimbeer retired -- fans respected and feared Michael Jordan and Tim Duncan and Shaq more than hated them -- but Miller and Artest do their best to resurrect his evil spirit.

Miller is a fading star now, averaging exactly 10 points a game this season after a Hall of Fame career. He is Indiana's fourth-leading scorer after more than a decade as its signature face. But he remains a skinny, swaggering tempest who has hit some of the most memorable big shots in this sport, including a couple against New York that had him making choking signs at Knicks superfan Spike Lee, with whom he had engaged in verbal warfare.

TRASH MAN

Miller talks trash the way the rest of us exhale, throws elbows, baits fans, gets away from defenders with veteran savvy (otherwise known as cheating) and will happily punk opposing players in the newspaper afterward.

But the menacing Artest makes him look like Gandhi. :laugh: Aside from everything else, Artest seems to have genuine anger-management issues. He leads the league in crazy. He's only 24 but has already put together an impressive résumé of flagrant fouls, suspensions, fines, obscene gestures and technicals.

And when he's really angry, he breaks stuff, like that TV camera that cost him $100,000 a few years ago. Tyson-esque, he is. On any given play, you can use the word ''foul'' to describe what he has done to an opponent as well as his general mood. He's what you want on your side in the playoffs, in other words.

And, oh yeah, one other thing.

He plays the best defense in the league.

Artest wasn't satisfied with merely beating up on Heat players last season. He also picked a fight with Pat Riley, of all people. He brushed Riley on the sideline after one play and got into it with Heat assistant Keith Askins, too. Then, for good measure, he flipped both middle fingers at the crowd, John Starks-style.

So, if you are keeping score at home, Artest, in one wonderful flourish, wanted to fight Miami's players, Miami's coaches, Miami's team president, Miami's crowd and then all of Miami. And that was just one game.

Artest is going to make some people in Miami really angry over the next week or so. And, man, is it going to be fun to watch.

But he isn't even Indiana's best player. That distinction belongs to Jermaine O'Neal, who just finished third in the Most Valuable Player voting, ahead of Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant.

TOUGH ROAD

That life-or-death struggle against New Orleans is going to appear easy compared with the mountain Miami tries to climb beginning tonight. It has been years, plural, since Miami beat Indiana even once, and now it must do so four times in seven games. Despite Miami's 16-game home winning streak, the last time the Pacers came here, they were so frightened they won by 22.

For whatever reason, the Heat doesn't feel anything like the Marlins did at a similar point last season, not community-wide. This Heat team hasn't captured South Florida the way the Marlins did.

Maybe it is because the sports are different, and the Marlins had a legitimate shot at the championship while nobody believes the underdog Heat can advance beyond this series, so why bother investing hope in an underdog about to become a speed bump?

Regardless, things become interesting and fun again tonight.

Enough with the little piranha.

Bring on the sharks.

Ragnar
05-06-2004, 11:18 AM
The matchups: Heat vs. Pacers

BY ISRAEL GUTIERREZ

igutierrez@herald.com


POINT GUARD

• Heat: In seven games against Baron Davis, one of the league's best point guards, Dwyane Wade averaged 15.4 points, 5.6 assists and four rebounds. That test is much more difficult than anything he'll get against the Pacers.

• Pacers: Early in the season, Jamaal Tinsley was finding it difficult just to get off the Pacers' bench. But he has since worked his way into the starting spot by toning down his once-wild game and improving his outside shooting. In the regular season, Tinsley shot a career-best 41.4 from the floor, though he was just 5 of 18 in three games against Miami.


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SHOOTING GUARD

• Heat: Eddie Jones had an uneven series against the Hornets despite being guarded by a smaller David Wesley. He scored 19 or more three times and scored in single figures three other times, including nine in Game 7. For the series he shot 38 percent from the floor and 27 percent from three-point range.

• Pacers: At 38, Reggie Miller is the oldest player on either team, and while he is still among the league's most feared three-point shooters, he is considered a one-dimensional player. The last time the Heat and Pacers played this season, Miller didn't take a shot until the second half.


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SMALL FORWARD

• Heat: Caron Butler was arguably the most consistent Heat player in the first round, averaging 14.7 points, 9.1 rebounds and 2.86 steals -- more than twice as many steals as any other Heat player. His rebounding was also crucial to the Heat's transition game because Butler can initiate the break.

• Pacers: Ron Artest had his best season as a professional, and was rewarded for his terrific defensive play by being named Defensive Player of the Year. Last season, he dominated Caron Butler, and this season he averaged 20 points, 8.3 rebounds, 3.7 assists and three steals in three games against the Heat.


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POWER FORWARD

• Heat: Lamar Odom will once again be crucial to the Heat's success in this series. He led the Heat in scoring with 16.3 points a game against the Hornets, and his 7-of-11 performance from the field in Game 7 was his most efficient game of the series. Odom also grabbed nine rebounds and four steals in the series clincher.

• Pacers: Technically, Jeff Foster is listed as a center. But given how much time Jermaine O'Neal spends in the post offensively and how well he protects the paint defensively, O'Neal is truly the Pacers' man in the middle. That makes Foster, who will be defended by Heat power forwards, the real power forward of the Indiana starting five.


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CENTER

• Heat: The battle in the middle will come down to former Portland teammates Brian Grant and Jermaine O'Neal. Grant, while considered one of the best post defenders in the league, isn't athletic enough or tall enough to keep O'Neal from getting his turnaround jumper off cleanly. That means Grant will have to do his best to keep O'Neal from getting good post position and make every O'Neal shot a contested one. On the other end, Grant needs to hit his jumpers consistently to draw O'Neal away from the basket.

• Pacers: Jermaine O'Neal is developing into one of the league's best post players, and he is only 25 years old. He earned second-team All-NBA this season and finished third in MVP voting behind Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan. With a high release on his jumper, it's difficult to affect his shot, and O'Neal averaged 22.3 points, 12.7 rebounds and three blocks in three games against the Heat this season. One weak spot for O'Neal is his dislike of physical play, so the Heat will have to take advantage of what it can get away with.


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BENCH

• Heat: The Heat's top three reserves, Rafer Alston, Udonis Haslem and Rasual Butler, all had a sub-par first-round series, combining to average just 13.8 points against the Hornets. Alston's performance was particularly unusual given his breakthrough regular season.

• Pacers: The Pacers are arguably the deepest team in the league, featuring five players who can receive regular playing time. Al Harrington was one of the league's best sixth men all year, and he was third on the Pacers in scoring in the series against Boston.


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COACHES

• Heat: Stan Van Gundy had plenty of time to prepare his team for the Hornets in the first round, but he's only offering a crash course on the Pacers in preparation for the second round. His game-day coaching talents will be tested early in the series as he tries to beat the Pacers for the first time in his brief coaching career. But his players trust him, and Van Gundy has them believing they can compete with anyone.

• Pacers: Rick Carlisle has done nothing but succeed since he became a head coach, leading the Pistons to two Central Division titles before being replaced by Larry Brown. He then led this year's Pacers to the best record in the league. He is a defensive-minded coach who also has utilized a deep team quite well. His decision to replace Kenny Anderson, the starter early in the season, with Jamaal Tinsley was critical to Indiana's success this season.


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INTANGIBLES

• Heat: The Heat can play with that nothing-to-lose attitude given that no one expected the team to reach this point. But that might be the Heat's only edge in this category because the team struggles on the road, is 0-3 against the Pacers this season and once again has less playoff experience than its opponent.

• Hornets: The Pacers not only have home-court advantage but they also have had 11 days of rest between first-round and second-round series. While that could be looked at as a detriment, it's probably better than the Heat having just one day to prepare for the team with the best record in the league. The Pacers also own a nine-game winning streak over the Heat.


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PREDICTIONS

• Israel Gutierrez: Pacers in 7. It'll be closer than most people think, but the home court will hold up.

• Dan Le Batard: Pacers in 6. And Heat fans ought to consider that optimistic.

• Stephen F. Holder: Pacers in 5. Pacers' superior depth will be the difference.

Hicks
05-06-2004, 11:30 AM
Someday I'll actually SEE Ron be this big nasty villian that makes Ron look like Ghandi. The only thing I can think of is when he flipped the bird to some taunting fans (in Miami no less), but it's not like he just steps on the court and starts cussing at anybody.

Ragnar
05-06-2004, 11:32 AM
HYDE: It's not Heat's time, but keep a watch
Published May 6, 2004


MIAMI -- Here's a word you might want to keep handy for the next four or five Heat games:

Yet.

As in: This Heat team isn't quite there yet. It isn't at Indiana's level yet. It doesn't have its roster completely aligned, or its young kids with enough basketball scars, to match up evenly with this tested and rested Pacers team.

Yet.

You see, it's a wonderful word. It allows you to be realistic about the Heat's chances in this Eastern Conference semifinal series that starts tonight in Indianapolis. But at the same time it allows you to be wholly optimistic about what even making this series means to this franchise's brightening future.

Let's make this simple: No one can realistically expect the Heat to win this best-of-7 series. The Pacers are that good. They had the best record in the NBA's regular season. And, no, all that's not simply because they were best in the East.

"Check out their record against Western [Conference] teams," Heat coach Stan Van Gundy said.

It was 20-8. That winning percentage is better than any Western team did against the West. Again, the Pacers are that good, that deep, that weathered.

This isn't to suggest Van Gundy or the Heat don't relish the challenge. Quite the opposite. And if beating an unaccomplished team like New Orleans represented such a big step for this Heat team, imagine what's to be learned by playing such an accomplished team like Indiana.

You have to like how Van Gundy addresses everything head-on. The ups. The downs. Even the (gulp) dastardly media after burying the Hornets. And there he was again on Wednesday afternoon, with the clock at 30 hours from tip-off and ticking down, saying, "There are two major questions. Is this enough? Because what was written today was true -- the season is a success without Indiana. But do [Heat players] still want more?

"Second, do they believe they can beat the team with the best record in the NBA?"

Of course, there's a third issue, and that's simply whether the Heat has enough horses to beat the best team. Hunger is well and good. Believing is fine and dandy. But against New Orleans the Heat's out-of-position front-liners were matched up against underachieving Jamaal Magloire and hard-working, if limited, P.J. Brown.

Now it goes up against NBA Defensive Player of the Year Ron Artest, a developed big man in Jermaine O'Neal and the likes of Al Harrington and Jonathan Bender off the bench. This isn't even mentioning starting 6-foot-11, 242-pound center Jeff Foster. Or, well, Reggie Miller. Just lining up against Miller should give the Heat kids a graduate lesson in playoff mentality.

Who does the Heat have to throw at Indiana's big bodies? Primarily Brian Grant, again. You have to admire Grant. He will give you his heart, soul and so-sore lower back. But to ask him, Lamar Odom and Udonis Haslem off the bench to shut down the Pacers' big men is asking a lot.

Everyone has known the hole in the Heat's lineup was right at center. Everyone knows that's the next piece to acquire -- a big, snarly, shot-blocking front-liner. Or two. It has good, young scorers with the likes of Odom, Dwyane Wade and Caron Butler.

But watch the Pacers tonight and you'll see what the Heat hopes to grow into. The Pacers made personnel moves on the run in recent years -- acquiring O'Neal, Artest, Brad Miller (since gone) and the draft pick that became Bender -- for essentially aging role players and jetsam.

The Heat has one chance to make this interesting: To run. And run. And run. And make their shots.

"We're not satisfied,"Odom said.

That's one question. Another is whether they believe. Climb those two mountains and there's still the disparity in talent. But the Heat can't lose for losing. Just making the playoffs made its Heat season.

Beating New Orleans re-made it again.

And this Indiana series? You can expect this to show how far there still is to go. There's no shame in that, if it plays out that way. Indiana is bigger, stronger, more veteran and much more accomplished. It's everything the Heat wants to be and isn't.

Yet.

Dave Hyde can be reached at dhyde@sun-sentinel.com.

Ragnar
05-06-2004, 11:32 AM
SKOLNICK: Artest gets fire under control
Published May 6, 2004


INDIANAPOLIS -- The guy's still a menace.

Yet this season, he's merely been a menace to the opposition, and not to cameras, legendary coaches, fans, polite society or his own team. In other words, not the way he used to be, and the way the Heat needs him to be to have any chance to steal this series -- by somehow getting him off his game, and his rocker, before his tenacious two-way play gets a slew of Heat players off theirs.

In the old days, the odds were against Ron Artest surviving an 11-day layoff without earning some sort of suspension. Instead, after Wednesday's practice, he sat in the corner (by choice), answering questions quickly and quietly. Praising the Heat and his teammates, offering to come off the bench, declaring "we haven't proven nothing yet."

Again showing no sign of his weakness, perhaps the only his Pacers have:

His destructive inner child.

This is a Pacer team so deep that, when it splits into two squads to scrimmage, each side faces a five as fearsome as any foe's this season. This is a team so deep it plans to go deep; as baby-faced killer Jermaine O'Neal put it, "We feel we're supposed to win the championship." This is a team so deep it can only be deep-sixed by a return of Bad Ron.

You know that character. He's the one who missed 12 games in 2002-03 due to league or team-imposed suspensions, unable to go a week without a technical foul, flagrant foul or five-figure fine. He's the one who, in a January 2003 game, kneed Caron Butler out of bounds, forcing Butler to get an MRI on his foot; got in a shouting match with Heat assistant Keith Askins; twice sauntered over to taunt Pat Riley, who was forced to shove the intruder away; gave the Heat crowd his middle finger; and flexed for effect.

"It was a pretty big bicep, too," a smiling Riley said. "He let us know he's a man."

No, Artest actually did that this season, by staying out of trouble, and letting his play speak for him, until his appreciative coach, Rick Carlisle, spoke on his behalf for Defensive Player of the Year, distributing stats showing Artest's assignments scored just 8.1 per game. No one ever questioned Artest's ability. Lamar Odom saw it on the AAU teams the two New Yorkers shared with Elton Brand: "You can imagine. We didn't lose much. We kind of kicked the whole country's butt."

Even Riley said, after last season's incident: "I'd like to have two or three Ron Artests myself."

"He makes his guys do all kinds of crazy stuff, and then when they finally get past him, we are right there," O'Neal said. "It makes it easier for us to slide over and make these guys take tough shots or throw the ball away. We're going to throw him on the best offensive guy every single night."

Some nights, Artest has been the Pacers' best offensive guy, averaging career-highs in points (18.3), rebounds (5.3) and assists (3.7). He won that Defensive Player of the Year award, a spot on the All-NBA third team and the trust of his teammates.

"I think I've gotten more opportunities to shoot the ball," Artest said. "I was always playing defense, but just having the ball in my hands a little bit more, that's the biggest thing."

To O'Neal, Artest's mental growth has been the biggest thing. O'Neal admitted that their relationship started slow, but now they understand each other.

"I told him coming into this year, `Look, you should have been an All-Star, you should have been Defensive Player of the Year last year. But nobody is ever going to notice that if every time you step on the court, they're not even watching what you're doing on the basketball court, they're waiting for you to do something off the court or something crazy that's going to change the tone of the game,'" O'Neal said. "And he really understood that, and he's just been playing."

Now Artest is the first guy to calm O'Neal down during an emotional moment. "He'd probably be the last guy to come and grab me last year," O'Neal said.

Upon taking over for Isiah Thomas, Carlisle knew the player he was inheriting. The coach has been surprised by Artest the person, his "generosity, his kindness, he's a family man, he's a fun guy to be around." He hoped the former St. John's star could reinvent himself as aggressive Nets forward Kenyon Martin did the season before. He thinks some of Artest's progression was conscious, and some was the natural result of aging from 23 to 24.

Odom remembers the Queensbridge kid at 13: "There's nothing but love between me and Ron Artest." And while he knows that "right now Ron is my enemy," Odom expects them to soon talk just "like we're in the eighth grade again, or the ninth grade."

Even if Artest, much to his menacing team's benefit, no longer acts like he still belongs there.

Ethan J. Skolnick can be reached at eskolnick@sun-sentinel.com.

Ragnar
05-06-2004, 11:34 AM
Defensive plans include a focus on fouls, Artest

By Harvey Fialkov
Staff writer
Posted May 6 2004

MIAMI · Pacers forward Ron Artest may be the NBA's Defensive Player of the Year, but it was his blossoming offensive skills that helped pave the way for the Pacers' three-game sweep of the Heat this season.

Although the taller Pacers held an average eight-rebound advantage over the Heat, it was Miami's penchant for fouling, particularly Artest, that turned the tide in Indiana's favor. The Pacers were 81 for 104 from the line, compared to 44 of 64 for the Heat.

The 6-foot-7 Artest averaged 20 points (8.3 rebounds and 3.0 steals) against the Heat, but he made a ridiculous 24 of 30 free throws in the last two games while shooting 7 of 36 from the field.

"We have to move our feet instead of using our hands," said Heat forward Caron Butler, who will be covering Artest.

Heat coach Stan Van Gundy would rather double-team Artest in the post and make him shoot the long-range jumper instead of 3-point marksman Reggie Miller or point guard Jamaal Tinsley (37.1 percent).

"[Artest] has this little Detlef Schrempf move that he goes through your arms and creates a lot of contact and gets to the line," Heat guard Eddie Jones said. "We've got to play him better in the post and make better decisions when he's going up for that shot and get your hands out of the cookie jar."

At 38, Miller is more of a role player now, but the NBA's all-time 3-point shooter was 5 for 5 on 3-pointers in Indiana's 97-91 victory over the Heat on Feb. 8. His trademark 3-point dagger secured the Pacers' 87-80 win on March 28.

"You can't give him air space," Jones said. "One key is you've really got to get back in transition because he's probably the fourth guy coming back, but he runs right into a wide-open shot. I have to make sure I'm all over him."

Van Gundy, who was tossing and turning just hours after the Heat's Game 7 victory over the Hornets on Tuesday, realizes the top-seeded Pacers go 10-deep and have far more offensive firepower than the Baron Davis-dominated Hornets.

None is more dangerous than 6-11 power forward Jermaine O'Neal, who averaged 22.3 points, 12.7 rebounds and 3.0 blocks against the Heat and finished third in the recent MVP vote.

"His quickness and the way he moves his feet makes it tough for us to get around and front him as much as we'd like," Van Gundy said. "I'm under no illusion we're going to shut this guy down. We just want to keep his numbers reasonable and, hopefully, we can do a good job on other people."

O'Neal will primarily be the focus of banged-up Heat center Brian Grant (lower back), who will need help from Udonis Haslem and possibly the 7-foot length of seldom-used Loren Woods.

WADE knows foe

After holding his own with Hornets All-Star guard Baron Davis, Heat rookie Dwyane Wade may hold the key to the Pacers' series in what appears to be a favorable matchup with low-scoring point guard Tinsley, who is more of a distributor than scorer.

"That gave me confidence, hopefully, for the rest of my NBA career, that I could stay in front of a tremendous guard like Baron Davis," said Wade, who averaged 15.4 points and 5.6 assists, including two game-winning shots against the Hornets. "A guy like Tinsley, he can pick you apart. You've got to be in his face at all times."

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MORE HEADLINES


Underdog Heat faces sizzling No. 1 seed Pacers

HYDE: It's not Heat's time, but keep a watch

SKOLNICK: Artest gets fire under control

Butler, Wade's shooting improvement translates to key points for Heat

Balcony seats, standing room on sale today

WIRE HEADLINES


Pacers' Jermaine O'Neal Wins Media Award

Well-Rested Pacers Face Surging Heat

76ers Add Harter to Coaching Staff

Hornets General Manager Bass Steps Down

Heat Derail Hornets 85-77, Head to Semis




Copyright © 2004, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Ragnar
05-06-2004, 11:37 AM
Pacers present many challenges for Heat

By Tom D'Angelo, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 6, 2004



MIAMI -- The Miami Heat resembled a team Wednesday that had just finished an emotional, exhausting seven-game series just 15 hours prior to the start of practice.

And while coach Stan Van Gundy forgave his players for being fatigued and perhaps celebrating just a bit after their 85-77 victory over New Orleans Tuesday, he certainly didn't enjoy the second Game 7 victory in team history as much as his players.

"I went home and felt good for a while,'' Van Gundy said. "I thought I'd get some rest and as soon as I laid my head down all I could thing about was, 'Oh my God, what are we doing on Jermaine O'Neal? What are we doing on Ron Artest? We've got to keep (Reggie) Miller off the three-point line.'

"There is always the next challenge. There is no time to enjoy it.''

That challenge is the Indiana Pacers, starting tonight at 9 at Conseco Fieldhouse. The Pacers not only are the Eastern Conference's top seed, they are the only team in the NBA to win at least 60 games.

And after sweeping the Celtics in a first-round series in which the closest margin was a 13 points, Indiana is rested and healthy.

"They're a veteran team; they know how to win ball games,'' Heat forward Caron Butler said. "I know they're well prepared for us. They think they can come out and beat whoever won (Game 7) and it happens to be us. Hopefully, the momentum will carry over to Game 1.''

The Pacers provide a different set of problems than the Hornets. Their best player (O'Neal) is the most versatile 7-footer this side of MVP Kevin Garnett. Oh, yeah, O'Neal also finished two spots behind Garnett in the MVP voting.

O'Neal, listed at 6-11, averaged 22.3 points and 12.7 rebounds this season against the Heat.

The challenge to limit O'Neal will belong to 6-9 Brian Grant, who missed Wednesday's light practice because of a lower-back strain. Grant spent the morning receiving treatment and getting a massage and is expected to play tonight.

Grant will need help. The Heat's best defense will be multiple looks, which means at times fronting O'Neal, at times playing straight up and at times sending a double team.

"He's a guy that is much harder for us to keep from the ball than (Hornets center) Jamaal Magloire because of his quickness and the way he moves his feet,'' Van Gundy said. "It's tough for us to get around in front of him. We'll try as much as we can but that hurts us a little bit because he's able to take shots over the top pretty much whenever he wants.''

O'Neal, the 17th pick of the 1996 draft out of Eau Claire High School in Columbia, S.C., has perhaps the softest touch for a big man in the game. But he's a hybrid, a big man when it comes to rebounding and posting up and a wing man when it comes to running the floor and knocking down a mid-range jumper.

The Heat just concluded a series in which it dealt with a point guard (Baron Davis) as the opposition's primary scorer. Double-teaming a point guard off the pick-and-roll is much easier than double-teaming a big man.

When Miami trapped Davis, the rotations were more natural than sending Lamar Odom to help on O'Neal, which will be the case when 6-11 Jeff Foster is in the game. But when 6-9 Al Harrington replaces Foster, doubling O'Neal will be risky.

"There is no way to double-team somebody and not leave somebody open,'' Van Gundy said. "Not a coach in the world has figured that out yet.''

Pick your poison. The logical thought is point guard Jamaal Tinsley. Tinsley averaged just 8.3 points this season, but he shot 37 percent on three-pointers. The aging Miller? Though Miller averaged just 10 points this season, he remains one of the game's greatest clutch shooters. Artest won the Defensive Player of the Year Award, so he must be an offensive liability, right? All Artest did against the Heat was average 20 points and go to the line 35 times in three games.

"When playing a team where everybody is a threat and you have to put two guys on the ball, they make you pay,'' Van Gundy said.

Can the Heat make the Pacers pay on the offensive end? Miami averaged just 78.7 points (compared to 90.3 for Indiana in the three games). Eddie Jones led the Heat with 15.7 points per game. Jones, though, had an uneven series against New Orleans, averaging 15 points and shooting.376.

"They're not going to give you anything inside,'' Jones said. "What you have to do is attack the rim and make plays to somebody else. Our big people will be open because we know Jermaine and Foster are going to come to block a shot and take a charge.''

Of the eight teams remaining in the playoffs, the Heat are by far the least respected. Many believe they don't belong, that this team has already reached its zenith.

But one small group of players begs to differ.

"Once you feel what it's like to win, you become hungry for more,'' Jones said. "This team is still hungry for more. I don't think we're done.''

tom_dangelo@pbpost.com

Ragnar
05-06-2004, 11:40 AM
For our spanish speaking visitors

DIFICIL COMPROMISO

LUIS E. RANGEL

Especial para El Nuevo Herald


Dwyane Wade tiene la seguridad de que el Heat de Miami puede superar a cualquier equipo del Este. ''Podemos hacerlo. Vamos a ir a Indiana y lo vamos a derrotar'', manifestó el piloto del conjunto del sur de la Florida.

La tarea, más allá de las palabras, es mucho más complicada.

El Heat inicia esta noche, a las 9, su serie semifinal por la Conferencia Este contra los Pacers de Indiana, en el Conseco Fieldhouse, sede del club dirigido por Rick Carlisle.

Los Pacers, al igual que los Hornets, basan su juego en la fuerza física y en su poderío en la zona de la pintura, gracias a la fortaleza de uno de los mejores centros de la NBA, Jermaine O'Neal.

Pero Indiana es infinitamente superior a Nueva Orleans, un conjunto que en medio de las lesiones fue capaz de darle pelea a Miami a lo largo de siete encuentros.

''Indiana es un equipo duro. Va a ser un enorme reto para nosotros'', apuntó el veterano del Heat, Eddie Jones.

Los Pacers concluyeron con la mejor foja de la NBA, y no sólo lo hicieron contra los quintetos del Este, sino que también exhibieron balance positivo contra los todopoderosos rivales del Oeste, contra los que dejaron 20-8.

Gracias a su accionar en la temporada y la manera rápida y eficaz en que borraron a los Celtics de Boston en su primera serie de playoffs, los Pacers son los amplios favoritos para imponerse al Heat.

En Indiana no dan nada por descontado.

''Va a ser una serie difícil. Estos muchachos del Heat llegaron a su tope en el momento ideal'', señaló Carlisle.

La única duda que queda en el lado de Indiana es el largo receso que ha tenido, ya que que ha estado fuera de acción por dos semanas.

''Ha sido un largo descanso. Eso no es muy bueno'', se lamentó O'Neal, quien pudiera crearle la mayor cantidad de dolores de cabeza al quinteto de Van Gundy.

De hecho, O'Neal forma junto a Ron Artest una muralla difícil de romper en la zona de la pintura, y que seguramente le ocasionará muchos problemas a Wade y Lamar Odom, que usan la penetración como una de sus principales armas ofensivas.

La labor de Artest fue tan sobresaliente que fue nombrado el Jugador Defensivo del Año.

''Son altos y con gran físico. Nos tomará mucho tratar de doblegarlos'', confesó Jones.

O'Neal y Artest fueron dos de las principales razones del por qué Miami no pudo ganarle a los Pacers en sus tres enfrentamientos durante la temporada regular. Incluso, Indiana se ha impuesto en los últimos nueve cotejos que han efectuado ambos clubes.

Miami tiene que sacarle el máximo provecho a la transición, una de las herramientas que mejor sabe usar.

Incluso, el Heat superó 31-12 en puntos convertidos por quiebres rápidos a los Pacers.

Más allá de eso, no hay muchos más elementos que parezcan favorecer a los muchachos del conjunto floridano. Ya no cuentan con la ventaja de campo, son ampliamente superados en estatura y no tienen en sus filas a alguien de la experiencia de un Reggie Miller, por ejemplo.

El Heat saldrá al tabloncillo sin nada que perder. De salir airoso, el quinteto de Van Gundy, habrá dado una enorme sorpresa.

Millerartest
05-06-2004, 06:34 PM
I didn't make it through all the articles, but did through quite a few. They definitely blew Reggie and Artest being villains way out of control in that second article. Miller is the classic playoff villain, but I didn't realize he became one from throwing elbows. And Artest, as we all know, has obviously been much more under control this year, so he doesn't quite fit the insanity bill that they keep throwing at him. Sounds like they're just trying to hype things up. Thanks for the words though. I always like to hear the perspective of other teams. Me gusta el uno en espanol tambien, aunque no lo leo.

indytoad
05-06-2004, 06:39 PM
Yeah I think the 'Villain' article was mainly just to hype up a bit of a rivalry. Which is definately a good thing. Rivalry is great, and being the 'villainous' team always makes it more fun.

IndyToad
I don't like your tone