The Eastern Conference Finals get underway tonight in Miami while the Western Conference Finals seem like they’re almost over. There are very few people picking the Indiana Pacers in this series and that’s quite understandable. The Pacers are an excellent team who seem to be made for the playoffs the way they’ve gone through opponents New York and Atlanta.
The Pacers aren’t flashy. They’re big, long and athletic and they can create serious match-up problems for any team and that may include Miami. I keep hearing about different keys to this series but I really think it will boil down to just a couple of things. First of all, I said earlier this week that I believe the Heat will win this series in seven games, but that doesn’t mean Indiana can’t pull of the upset. Here the keys as I see them…
It’s Not Hibbert, It’s Bosh – Rightfully so, many people feel Pacers’ big man Roy Hibbert is the key to the series as he totally dominated the Knicks and will look to do the same in Miami. There is a major difference between playing the Knicks and playing the Heat however when it comes to the big men.
Chris Bosh is a big man who can play down on the block but he can do the one thing the Knicks’ bigs couldn’t and that’s knock down the outside jump shot. If Bosh can routinely move Hibbert away from the basket by hitting the 10-12 footers then the Heat will have accomplished two things; they get scoring from Bosh and more importantly they get more access to the paint area where Hibbert will have been forced to vacate.
The Most Important Knee in Basketball – A few weeks ago this title belonged to Russell Westbrook but now it belongs to Miami’s Dwyane Wade. If that knee is not 100%, Wade can still be effective, but should it cause him enough problems to where he misses minutes or even a game then that drastically alters the series.
Can Paul George Be a Factor at Both Ends? – It’s no secret that Paul George will be locked on LeBron James quite a bit throughout this series and the question will be can he play great defense on the league’s best player and still be effective on the offensive end? It might sound like this is something these guys do all the time anyway and it is, but not with the intensity required in the playoffs.
The goal for George isn’t so much to keep LeBron from scoring so much as it is making him work to get those points.
The rest of the factors in this series will work themselves out, but I really believe those are the three key ones to focus on.
So Long Vinny – I can’t say it came as much of a surprise, but Los Angeles Clippers Head Coach Vinny Del Negro has been fired by the team. Pretty amazing considering his Clippers’ team won 56 games this year and the organization’s first Pacific Division title. Most people will point the finger at Chris Paul who may not have been happy with the direction of the Clippers’ offense under Del Negro.
Never mind the fact they were blitzed by Memphis in four straight games after winning the opening two… Obviously the first guy on the short list of replacements is Phil Jackson but let’s remember that the 11-time champion is engaged to be married to Lakers CEO Jeannie Buss. I think the term ‘awkward’ would be useful in this situation.