In Indiana it’s not just a slogan on a motocross T-shirt.
They may out play us, they may win a series against us and they certainly get all of the calls against us but no one can say that our Indiana Pacers are afraid of the Miami Heat.
Call it familiarity, call it contempt or just call it we match up pretty well against them but one way or the other they no longer hold the aura of conquering warriors to us.
It’s just a win and will count no more in the standings than any other win will at the end of the regular season but with future playoff implications in mind I think it does say that if the Heat & Pacers play again in the playoffs the Heat will not walk away unscathed if they walk away at all.
I’ll give David West his props later in the grade section but I would be remiss if I didn’t at least mention right here & right now that he was a human Juggernaut tonight and nobody was going to stop him and God knows they tried everything and everyone to do so including what I consider almost a mugging by Shane Battier. So even though I’m going to talk about a couple of other players here understand I place David West first and foremost as the reason we won this game.
But because everybody knows how good he did & there have been lots of articles already written about it I want to focus here on a couple of other players who IMO were very instrumental in this victory.
Lance Stephenson is in the head’s of the Miami Heat. Yes this has the potential to backfire and blow up in our faces but for tonight anyway it blew up all over the Heat and frankly was fun to watch. Just on a physical level Lance now matches up very well vs. Dwayne Wade & IMO for the most part all game out played him. He’s a little taller than Wade, he might even be stronger than Wade which is something that Dwayne is not used to facing at the two position and most shockingly for Wade he is faster than him. In fact Wade used to be called the flash but watching him go against Lance it looks more like he needs some geritol as he is left in the dust.
Lance is not afraid to take it at Wade & then on defense he actually can not only stay with him but because of his arm length he both affects his shot and often causes him to pass wide to avoid Lance’s hands.
But I think the most impressive thing was on defense when Wade would make it into the paint area and Lance was still in front of him not once did he bite on a Dwayne Wade pump fake and stood his ground causing great consternation for Wade and on more than one occasion forcing a bad pass late in the shot clock.
Also while I know that it is immature and we don’t want this to be too much of a habit I love the fact that Lance does not bow at the feet of or idolize either Wade or James.
This truly bothers them btw and I mean it really bothers them.
With LeBron he is not used to everyone not sucking up to him and trying to be his best friend. This btw is an old Michael Jordan trick that he was famous for. He would go out of his way to befriend the star player of the other team if he could and then they would not go at him as hard on the court. Many people over the years have said this was part of the problem with both Barkley & Ewing was that they couldn’t see Michael was trying to take them out of their game.
There was one player that Michael never made friends with and there was one player who was not afraid to go at him. Yes every Pacers fan knows his name and we see his jersey hanging in the rafters.
Lance isn’t anywhere like that but in some ways it’s all the same, Lance has nothing compelling him not to take it at those two each and every game and frankly I think it takes them out of their game. Also its not like he’s a scrub who’s sitting on the bench not playing like he did last year, he did this while dropping 15 on them and just suffocating Wade with defense. He seemed to take it a little easier on Allen the few times he was rotated on him but I think that is more because he looks at him like a Grandpa figure.
Okay I won’t lie either, I hate Wade. I didn’t used to but these past two years he has turned into a whiney little runt who looks to the referees each and every time he has the ball. Way to often they reward his whining with free throws so that gets under my skin as well. So I won’t deny that Lance giving him an earful while beating them on the court gives me great pleasure.
So in honor of all Pacers fans who have suffered under the oppressive thumb of Dwayne Wade I say thank you Lance Stephenson you and your potty mouth are doing God’s work.
Next player who is not getting nearly enough accolades for his contributions is Tyler “wrecking ball” Hansbrough.
When Frank took out West mid way through the first quarter I was gritting my teeth cursing that once again Frank was using the damned bench when things were balancing on a precipice.
But Tyler not only made me eat my words he made Rashard Lewis eat his elbows and armpits. The Lewis experiment lasted a whole 1:40 and then it was time to bring in Shane “the molester” Battier. They might as well have given Shane his old Duke uniform because Tyler just proceeded to light him up like it was an old ACC game.
On defense he was right in their jerseys and he knocked the tattoos off of the Bird Man as he drove to the basket. To Bird Man’s credit he hit the shot but believe me he felt that and will still be feeling it tomorrow. Also Tyler was very engaged in this game, when he came to the bench he was as animated as I’ve ever seen him and was hitting high fives with everyone & he about dislocated George Hill’s shoulder if not actually ripping off his arm when they clapped hands.
I’m telling you to have your starting power forward destroy them and then have his backup come in and not let down at all is more than an advantage, that’s winning basketball right there and it was something that was missing during our playoff run last season.
To compare in 12 min Tyler had 11 points & 3 rebounds Chris Bosh in 32 min had 13 points and 2 rebounds.
I’ll be brief in my praise for Frank but I just won’t fee right not talking about him. First I am always reminded of a conversation I had with a former member of PS&E when Frank first took over the team. He told me that down towards the end of that season that the entire sales staff was summoned to a meeting with Frank Vogel, which he thought was odd. He said that they all set through a session complete with power points and video of how Frank had a plan to beat the Miami Heat when the met in the playoffs. He said he had charts laid out and pointed out weaknesses on both teams that should be exploited. Of course we ended up playing the Bulls that year so it was a moot point. But I have always wondered if Frank being prepared back then hasn’t helped them each and every game we play them to get better and better to the point now that we have no fear of them.
Second why we haven’t talked about this more before now is beyond me. After struggling for a couple of games out west Frank Vogel has a long meeting with Lance Stephenson. Does he yell at him? Does he belittle him? Does he just relegate him to the bench?
No to all three, instead of berating him he tells him how valuable he has been to the team and how badly the team needs him. Lo & behold Lance responds with arguably the best stretch of games of his young career.
I don’t know that anything else really needs to be said about that as it speaks for itself.
I know this; Slick is in another level and will always be. He’s a legend a champion and frankly to anybody who is above the age of 30 who has lived in Indiana he is Mr. Pacer basketball. I’m not sure Frank can ever reach that height and it’s unfair to ever ask him to.
But everyone else? Honestly I don’t know that we have ever had a better overall coach. As I’ve said before he is not the tactician that Brown or Carlisle was and he doesn’t command the respect from the players that Bird does but he is a better tactician than Bird and he has earned both the respect and admiration of the player that neither Brown nor Carlisle had.
We truly are blessed to have one of the best coaches in the NBA.
Also can we talk draft value for a min? Our starting shooting guard who IMO outplayed their starting shooting guard was a second round pick, his backup who came in and gave you a few quality min. even though he is a rookie was also drafted in the 2nd round. Roy Hibbert was a low first round pick & Tyler was a late lottery pick. Only our star player was picked in the top 10 and he was number 10. I’m not looking at where players on our team were drafted by other teams just ours. But really look at the value we are getting for modest investment. If you draft with purpose and do your homework you can get good players outside the lottery.
Okay let’s do some grades.
David West: A++
B.A.M.F. to the extreme. There was not one weak part to his game tonight; he was efficient from the floor hitting 12-15 shots and all 6 of his free throws. He would have had a couple more assists if Hibbert didn’t bobble an easy dunk and Lance lose a perfectly thrown pass. But most impressive was the fact that even though he was very active on the defensive end he did not have one single foul called on him and he never turned the ball over. What we witnessed this night was not so much a good basketball game but a symphony put on by a maestro. Whatever accolades you want to heap on him for this game add two more and call it a night because this was as perfect a game as you will ever see.
Paul George: B+
BTW that is not a bad grade, not by a long shot when you are guarding the best player in the world. He had several impressive shots from the floor and as always he was a disruptor on the defensive end. The Heat were keying on him defensively and making it hard for him to dribble but for the most part he was able to handle it and he was responsible for probably the most important play of the game when in the 4th quarter he dove to the ground and somehow managed to throw the ball out around Wade to a sprinting Lance Stephenson for a momentum crushing fast break layup.
Roy Hibbert: C-
Tale of two halves basically. First half was an F and he was all but useless out there. Second half was much more productive and in fact for about 5 min. I actually remembered that he was 7’2” on the offensive end as he actually dunked the ball. He didn’t get an A for that second half but I’m feeling generous and will round this up to a C- for him.
Lance Stephenson: A
I’ve already given him his accolades above but it’s worth mentioning Dude hit 2-3 from downtown on the Heat. If anyone had said that we would win the season series vs. the Heat and Lance Stephenson would be a large part of the reason why we would have had them committed. I only pray that he can continue this when he goes to the 6th man role.
George Hill: B-
Hit a couple of big momentum killing three point shots tonight. Played decent defense vs. Chalmers not letting him get to where he wanted on the floor except for a couple of occasions. I really am concerned about his shoulder though, I love George but I’ll just say sometimes he seems a little to comfortable sitting out a game or two here or there. We really need him on Monday vs. the Bulls.
Tyler Hansbrough: A
Pretty much said it all above but I’ll just say they had no one on their bench that seemed to have any ability to match up with Tyler. Which makes me wonder why don’t they use Anthony anymore? He was a factor last year in the playoffs against us.
Orlando Johnson: B
Pure, that is the only thing I can think of to describe his shot. I can envision this guy actually working his way into being a solid rotational player in the next couple of years. Again more praise for Frank, using the Mad Ants to get him some time on the floor has IMO already paid dividends.
Ian Mahinmi: B-
The Heat don’t have a single decent center on their team, we have two. This wasn’t Ian’s strongest game but still you can see his value when we play the Heat as he is just bigger and more athletic than any of their big men. I always poo poo’d the idea that Ian would be that much different than Lou but that lasted till I saw him in the first pre-season game. Now I believe if we face the Heat in the playoffs Ian is going to be one of the strongest assets we have.
D.J. Augustine: C+
In the battle of backup point guards he won. Norris Cole did absolutely nothing. DJ didn’t do much more but he did hit a huge 3 point shot and didn’t totally suck. This is already a vast improvement from earlier this season. He at least hit his technical foul shot which is something that George failed to do earlier.
Sam Young: C
Do not underestimate how big it was for Sam to dribble the length of the court, get trapped in a corner and have the vision and presence of mind to hit Tyler Hansbrough for a wide open dunk. Every time the Heat made a run we had an answer and Sam helped in that cause. He did his job tonight and he will get back into the flow of the offense sooner rather than later. In fact with Sam coming back and Danny soon to return I just wonder if Gerald Green will ever get significant min. again this season? He could suppose but somebody in front of him is going to have to slip.
Enough of this bloviating, it’s time to dance.
Here is a special message for Dwayne Wade and the rest of the heat.