In the past few weeks the Indiana Pacers have put on a heck of a run to get into the second spot in the Eastern Conference. Now, with their star, Paul George playing well, and their leader, Danny Granger returning they seem to be on top of the world. The Pacers are playing very, very well.
They are not, however, better than the Miami Heat.
I will wait a moment for all of Indiana to calm themselves down; but the essential bottom line remains an absolute truth.
Miami is the team to beat.
There are three reasons why this fact remains true despite Indy’s great charge:
1) Any series vs. LeBron James – As good as the Pacers are playing (and their defense has been absolutely ridiculous) and as good as Paul George is playing right now, I ask the simple question: would you bet against the Heat in any 7 game series? Put more simply – can anyone beat the Heat four times? I would argue LeBron, in the playoffs can win 2-3 games by himself. Against anyone. Keep in mind he just finished a streak where he scored more than 30 points while shooting above 60% from the field in six straight games (and narrowly missed a seventh because he shot a late, and deep three). You’re going to bet against this guy? Additionally, the Heat are in the midst of a ten game winning streak, so there is that too.
2) Miami also has the third and fourth best players when the teams match up – We can even argue that Wade is the 2nd best player when the teams meet, but for the benefit of the doubt I am putting George ahead of him (at my own peril). Miami however, has Wade and Bosh, both of whom are better than Granger and West. Again – would you wager against a team with three of the top four players in the series?
3. How does Granger fit in? – The team has done all of their incredible work without the player many have labelled as their best player (of course he is not that guy anymore) but he has not coexisted with his team for some time. How will he take the backseat? Will he be able to fit in? Who does he guard? Does he come off the bench? There are simply too many questions surrounding this team going forward, least of all – is the winning sustainable?
Miami remains the team atop the East, and the team to beat in the NBA.