After Miami's game 2 loss to Indiana, the two themes of the 2013 series were the bruising nature of both teams and the fact that Dwyane Wade's right knee was clearly still an issue. In the 2012 NBA Playoffs, Wade and the Heat only needed a trip to the Conseco Fieldhouse to augment his game.
If you recall, it wasn't until the Heat was down 2-1 last season that Wade turned in a herculean road performance. He went on, along with LeBron James, to take three straight games from the Pacers, winning the series -- and eventually a title.
Yet even after the game 3 loss, there is something to be said about Indiana as a team and as a franchise. We may view the Pacers as a significant underdog and a smaller market, but don't forget that only three other NBA organizations have more playoff wins over the past 20 years. They are not afraid of the big stage, and -- more importantly -- they are not afraid of the Heat. Some have argued that the Pacers don't have a true superstar, but Paul George, as they say, "has next."
The old adage that a postseason series doesn't start until a team loses on its home floor simply does not apply to these two squads. Both coaches are very young and very good. Both teams are very athletic and very physical. James is the world's best player, and it's almost scary that we essentially expect a near triple-double from him every night. George, a second-team All-NBA defender, has struggled with him on the low block, and it's now up to Frank Vogel to make the vital adjustment. This of course, brings us back to Wade, who is averaging just 14 points in this series.
When Wade is truly healthy, he attacks the basket with a reckless abandon. He is equally active defensively, playing the passing lanes and disrupting the perimeter. But, he is not healthy right now. His right knee is severely limiting that explosion, and as a result, he's attempting just three free throws per game, or half of his regular season attempts. Indiana's other ace wing defender, Lance Stephenson, has done a terrific job preventing Wade from getting into the middle and forcing him to pull up. In the two Heat victories, he has averaged 18.5 points and converted nearly 59 percent of his field goals. In the one loss, he scored 14 points and shot under 50 percent.
This is not to say there is a clear-cut blueprint on how to beat the Miami Heat. Quite frankly, there isn't one. However, as I wrote last week, every great superhero needs a great sidekick -- and that includes one as magnificent as LeBron. If the Pacers can find a way to control Wade, they can find a way to control the freight train that is the Heat.
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