The Miami Heat are in an interesting situation when it comes to Game 3 tonight in Indiana. On the one hand, they’re perhaps the best team in basketball with a roster full of talented shooters and defenders. But on the other hand, the Indiana Pacers have proved to be formidable opponents and aren’t going to go down as easily or limply as the Heat’s previous two opponents.
In fact, you could even go as far as to say this is the shakiest ground the Heat have been on in the postseason since they acquired LeBron James and Chris Bosh back in the summer of 2010 as not only are the Heat being challenged for the first time in the Eastern Conference playoffs – they’re quickly becoming underdogs of sorts.
Obviously, no one is going to unanimously choose the Heat as underdogs, as you wouldn’t tag a Munchkin as a heavy favorite in a race, but in terms of public opinion the Heat are losing legions of viewers and casual fans across the NBA and that’s the first time this postseason we’ve seen that happen.
Indiana remains the Munchkin in this series though, as they don’t nearly have the playoff experience the Heat do, but that doesn’t mean they have none. The Pacers have been a team on the rise, they didn’t come out of nowhere this year with Paul George and the crew.
Back in 2011 he Pacers beat the Bulls up for a single in their first round series, and this was the last good Bulls team we saw in Chicago. Last year the Pacers were stopped by the Heat in the postseason but they crept deeper and deeper into the postseason until now they’re not only back playing the Heat but they have a chance to beat them.
The team isn’t complete but let’s go ahead and reference that 2011 Chicago Bulls team that did damage in the postseason that year. They had a young and daring head coach, a solid lineup and a superstar to go toe-to-toe with LeBron James.
This Pacers team is so much better than that Bulls team as they have shooters to match the Heat offensively and Indiana’s superstar is quite literally going toe-to-toe on the hardwood with LeBron and isn’t just doing it metaphorically like Derrick Rose did.
It’s getting to the point where you can’t stand up and declare that Miami is the better team because they have the superior roster. Indiana has showed twice they can contend with the Heat and match their talent on roster. It’s premature to say Paul George is a match for LeBron James but he’s putting up a devastatingly gorgeous case that he’s LeBron’s new nemesis.
The series is far from over and frankly that’s the way it should be. These teams are more evenly matched than we could have ever imagined and it would be crying shame if we weren’t treated to a full seven games of this gleeful entertainment.