The Pacers held on to win Game 2 despite going 2/6 from the line over the final 90 seconds. The Spurs posted another double digit postseason victory, this time over the Los Angeles Clippers. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
Pacers hold on to even series
This series forces me to watch two types of basketball I don’t particularly enjoy. On the one side, you have Miami. The Heat relies entirely on two superstars… for everything. Defense, scoring, creating, rebounding; LeBron James and Dwyane Wade must do it all or it won’t get done. Outside of Mario Chalmers’ two points, Wade and LeBron scored all of Miami’s points in the 4th quarter and 31 of the team’s 37 2nd half points. You don’t win championships when you rely exclusively on two players. Let’s not pretend the Chris Bosh injury is absolutely devastating, either. Does it hurt Miami? Of course. Bosh is a very talented forward, but he, along with every other Heat player, disappears in crunch time. It’s LeBron and Wade or bust for Miami.
The Pacers are the polar opposite; a team built on balance where each player has a role and the team only succeeds if each player is executing and performing adequately. Unfortunately, the Pacers lack a go-to performer who will carry the team in crunch time. Therefore, where the Heat stands around and watches LeBron and Wade go one-on-one, the Pacers stand around and wonder who will take the big shot. While neither structure is ideal for a team with title hopes, if I had to choose, I’d go with the superstars. Here’s why.
Although the Pacers left Miami with a tied series, the Heat could have easily been up 2-0 had Wade converted an easy layup and LeBron and Wade not struggled down the stretch. You can credit Indiana’s defense if you’d like. I believe they had a role in LeBron and Wade’s struggles, but both players still got the shots they wanted in almost every scenario. They simply couldn’t connect. Superstars win close games more often than not.
On the other hand, credit the Pacers for not backing down and for not bowing at the throne of LeBron and Wade. The Pacers have been more physical and irreverent to Miami’s powerful duo than any team outside of Boston. While I don’t think it rattles Wade or LeBron, it does send a message to the rest of Miami’s roster while also making Wade and LeBron aware they’ll have to work for every inch in this series.
I think the Pacers best shot at winning this series right now is to run their offense through David West. He’s their most reliable player. He’s been in these situations before. The pressure isn’t too big for him. More importantly, he can exploit the weak interior defense of the Heat (except for those times when LeBron is on him).
I also think it’s important the Pacers go back to Miami up 3-1, because I can’t see them closing out the series in a Game 7 in Miami. Winning three in a row against such a tough defensive team with two of the league’s top five players is a daunting task. One I don’t think the Pacers can accomplish. However, if they continue to be physical and force LeBron and Wade to fight for every shot, they’ll have a decent chance.
After Indiana’s Game 2 victory, David West was adamant about getting his teammates off the floor as quickly as possible. He didn’t want them celebrating over a single win. The Pacers have higher goals, goals that require three more victories. At the very least, the Pacers have their heads in the right place.
Spurs overcome rust to top Clippers
If someone told you Tony Parker would score only seven points and the Spurs would still win by 18, you’d tell them to put their money where their mouth is. And you’d have lost your shirt. In another showing of how talented and deep the Spurs are; Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard stepped in to fill the scoring void left by Parker.
I’m not going to get over excited about one game, but the Spurs did some things that make the Clippers outlook in this series very bleak. First of all, the Spurs struggled mightily at times to execute offensively and still scored 108 points. Turnovers were rampant for the Spurs. For a team that is one of the NBA’s best at protecting the ball, it was clear San Antonio was having difficulty adjusting to the speed and aggressiveness of the Clippers. Expect those turnovers to be eliminated moving forward.
Second, the Spurs exploited the Clippers big men on both ends. Defensively, the Spurs protected the rim and forced Blake Griffin, Kenyon Martin, and DeAndre Jordan to take jumpers. Not one of them is capable of consistently knocking down jumpers. Offensively, the Spurs exploited the Clippers inability to play sound team defense by consistently finding an open Boris Diaw, Tim Duncan, or Leonard for easy points in the paint. Reggie Evans, the Clippers unsung hero in Round 1, played eight minutes, totaling 3 boards, 2 turnovers, and 4 fouls to go along with 0 points. Evans is a bully. The Clippers need brains to win this series.
Third, the Spurs still scored at critical times without Tony Parker leading the way. Did Parker play a leading role in creating offense and distributing? Certainly, but for a team that relied so heavily on Parker in the regular season, it must be comforting for the team to know that even on an off night for Parker, the Spurs have the horses to hang 100+ points on an opponent in the postseason.
If there was one glaring weakness for the Spurs outside of the turnovers, it was their bench. Gary Neal, Stephen Jackson, Matt Bonner, and Tiago Splitter struggled when on the floor as a unit. Los Angeles’ bench used their quickness to attack the Spurs second unit and on two separate occasions erased double digit leads. Splitter especially looked nervous and out of whack.
As the series moves on it’ll be interesting to see how the Clippers respond. San Antonio clearly made it a point to not allow Chris Paul any room to operate. This could be a fatal blow for Los Angeles. Paul is their offense. Without him, they’ll struggle to get easy baskets and execute in the half court. As well as Eric Bledsoe played in Game 1 it still wasn’t enough to carry the Clipper offense. Until the Clippers find a way to free up Paul, this series will be an enormous struggle for Los Angeles.