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The “Old” Indiana Pacers Returned On Sunday! But Was It Just A “Cameo” Appearance?

By Ritchie Totten — For most of the regular season this year, the Indiana Pacers were clearly the best team in the East – and maybe in the entire NBA.  They were rolling.  Players even compared the way they played defense to the way the World Champion Seattle Seahawks in the NFL played defense in the Super Bowl.  It was their “schtick”.  Their particular excellence!  Then came the Danny Granger trade.

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Now all things considered, Danny Granger had a pretty tough early part of the season with the Pacers.  He was injured for most of the first half of the season — but he was nevertheless considered to be an important part of the Pacers teams and mentality.  He was supposedly a team member who provided veteran stability.  He was talked about as being a locker-room leader — a force.  And — he was a force to reckoned with on the court — when he was healthy.  But when he went — and Even Turner came in — the Pacers went south.  I’m not saying that trade was the cause — necessarily.  Sometimes it gets to be a long season — and teams who are winning big — and steadily — lose focus a little and get tired of waiting for their “real season”.  Their play gets a little sloppy — the intensity and motivation for individual games drops off a little.  Then time goes on and playing that way kind of becomes a habit.  They fall into the “waiting for the play-offs” state of mind — and uninspired, unmotivated style of play becomes a habit — and it becomes a hard habit to break.

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It seemed at times that that was what happened to the Pacers.  Then the play-0ffs came, and it was a little like the Pacers thought playing that great Pacer style of defense-driven basketball would just return again — because it was the play-offs.  The  result was that the Pacers would look pretty good in one game — and lackluster and unmotivated the next game.  Roy Hibbard was criticized –then cat-called — and finally benched for inexplicable and extended minutes in key stretches  of play-off games.  Long story short, the Indiana Pacers did just enough in their first two series to get by — and move on.

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And then came the Miami Heat.  Even though the Pacers suffered a late season collapse, they had enough built-up mojo from the early part of the season to end up the Eastern Conference top seed.  So Miami rolls into Indiana and the “old” Pacers re-appear.  They absolutely “maul” the Heat. — winning 107-95 in a game that was never that close.  All the Pacer stars — young and old  — showed up and played like it was last November – December all over again.  Roy Hibbert dominates.  Indiana ended up winning by nine points — but the game, like I said, was never really that close.  The Heat’s best efforts by their “big three” could never get closer than eight points as the game rolled into the home stretch.  And for most of the game, the Pacer lead was in the high double-digits.  The Miami Heat had no answers — and no response.

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As Miami Heat coach, Eric Spoelstra, said after the game on Sunday,  “We’re just going to have to figure this out.”  My question is — is this just another flash in the Indiana Pacer’s pan — or has the part of the season Indiana has been waiting for all year finally arrived — and they are fully engaged again?  Or have they satisfied themselves that they can beat the  Heat now — and they can just relax again — Mission accomplished?

Smart Money Is On The Celtics To Finish Off The Heat in Game 6 Tonight!

By Bobby Toulaine – The Miami Heat continue to mystify.  The are explosive.  One on one — it’s hard to beat Dwayne Wade and La Bron James.  But it is a little like two super stars playing against five NBA quality players on a team against them.  Maybe that will change if Chris Bosh plays extensive minutes tonight — because Miami kind of built their team such that — at their best — both James and Wade play off of Bosh — and when he’s not in there — the Heat are a little like having two Allen Iversens on your team, except they split ball time, so neither one really reaches their full individual potential.

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But with Rajon Rondo quarter-backing the Celtics, its a little like a Peyton Manning on the basketball court.  He’s a talented player in his own right, obviously, but he makes everyone around him better than they are by themselves — just by the positions he puts them in on the floor and the opportunities in motion  that he creates out of thin air — and the threat that he individually creates.

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Based on what I’ve seen so far, though, I think I would have to go with Garnett, Rondo, Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce — seasoned veterans with the heart, precision, and tenacity of champions.  I just think they will be the last team standing in that series.