After a long, grueling, NBA playoff season that had all the impact-changing injuries (ie. Patrick Beverley on Russell Westbrook), heroic moments, choke jobs, reputations elevated (ie. Steph Curry, Paul George) and devalued (Hello Dwight & Blake!), we finally come down to the NBA Finals starting tonight between the San Antonio Spurs and the Miami Heat, where as much as seven potential Hall of Famers will battle it out for the Larry O’Brien trophy. Before I give out the breakdown of the Finals boxing-match style, I feel like we have to address what happened earlier this week first. Mainly…..
……what the hell happened to the Indiana Pacers in Game 7?! First, let’s give credit to the Heat for the phenomenal defense they played, specifically in the second quarter, when they went on a 33 – 16 run to change the course of the game and choke the life out of the Pacers at that point. Now, I understand that Miami, when their “Big 3” are playing aggressively, are the best team rolling in the NBA, so the viewpoint of the Pacers losing to a better team isn’t lost on me. To add to that, Indiana doesn’t have that player right now that can put a team on his back & rally from a 15-point deficit. But Game 7 isn’t just about talent alone. More than anything, it’s about imposing your will on another team, giving your best effort & leaving your heart & soul in between the lines. The Pacers showed these traits in the first six games of this series, basically battling Miami to a standstill. When Game 7 came around however, they left all of those on the team plane. After dominating the boards the entire series, they were out-rebounded by Miami 43-36 (15-8 on the offensive boards), who made more free throws (33) than Indiana attempted (20), while turning over the ball 21 times before losing 99 – 76. The way they ended off the series left you strangely bitter, almost like the first time you watched The Departed. Great movie, kept you riveted the entire time before they mailed in the last 20 minutes & you ended up leaving the theater wanting to punch something.
As far the Pacers future is concerned, their future seems pretty bright. As long as they can resign David West (which by all accounts, wants to come back), George & Roy Hibbert can keep developing & improving on their talents, either sign a legitimate point guard or send George Hill & D.J. Augustin to a Five-Star like summer camp to learn how to handle the ball in tight situations, they should be able to contend again. Here’s the thing though: the future isn’t guaranteed. Everyone feels like Miami is going to break up the team in 2014, and they might. But what if they find a loophole that keeps them contending for the rest of LeBron’s prime years? Don’t forget, Derrick Rose is coming back and adding him alone makes Chicago 15 wins better at least. Depending on the coach they hire (especially with George Karl now on the market), Brooklyn might find that edge to compete with the contenders and start to mirror the city’s swagger. If Atlanta does the unthinkable, and lands Chris Paul and Dwight Howard with their cap space to put alongside Al Horford, that will change the landscape of the Eastern conference. We just don’t know what the future holds. Everyone thought Shaq & Penny would control the rest of the 90’s in the East; they also thought the same thing about Gary Payton & Shawn Kemp in Seattle. We also thought once that Vince & TMac would rule the NBA from Toronto together, or Ray Allen, Sam Cassell and Glenn Robinson’s futures would be bright in Milwaukee; or Jermaine O’Neal/Ron Artest-led Pacers, or 50 Cent, the Game & the rest of G-Unit (just making sure you’re paying attention), and every other young squad with a ton of potential who we thought would eventually win for years and win a title. We just don’t know for sure, & that’s why when Game 7’s comes along, you have to leave everything on the floor. Because when you do & the game happens to be close, you just never know. Let’s hope Indiana doesn’t look back at this game in a few years and wonder what might have been, and hopefully they’ll use this last series as motivation to get over the hump.
Cal Cee // South Shore Ave
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