Roy Hibbert, Paul George lead tough Pacers to tie series against Heat

USA TODAY Sports

The perpetually competitive Spurs make their first Finals since the 2006-2007 season while the Heat find themselves all knotted up at 2 games apiece with the feisty Pacers.

As Nuggets Nation anxiously awaits GM Masai Ujiri's decision on his future employment with bated breath, the Spurs have somehow lurched their way to another NBA Finals. After being picked by only John Hollinger to win the West, the Spurs again defied predictions that their championship window was closed and that the "Big Three" of Manu Ginobili, Tim Duncan and Tony Parker were too aged to compete against younger teams like the Oklahoma City Thunder or a (seemingly, at the time) newly-minted superteam in the Los Angeles Lakers.

Despite my enduring hatred for Manu, the Spurs have nearly always capitalized on their opportunities to fight for the Larry O'Brien trophy. This postseason was definitely a fortunate one - they matched up in the first round against the Lakers' M.A.S.H. unit, then went on to face a super-young Warriors team overflowing with overconfident ebullience after knocking off the Nuggets. The Warriors weren't able to maintain their incredibly hot shooting they enjoyed during the first round and succumbed to the excellent adjustments employed by Coach Pop, as the Spurs won the series in 6. They then swept a clearly exhausted Grizzlies team which had to battle both the Clippers and Thunder. Luckily for the Spurs, they didn't have to play against either the Thunder or the Nuggets in the first two rounds, which would have likely given them much more trouble than the Warriors or Lakers did. With injuries to Russell Westbrook, Danilo Gallinari, and Stephen Curry derailing each of their respective team's postseason hopes, it appears that Pop's commitment to his players' health at all costs has once again paid off. With a super-long layoff due to their sweep of the Grizzlies, the Spurs can only get more rested as they bide their time and await their Eastern Conference opponent.

Meanwhile, the Indiana Pacers slogged through some East sewage (Atlanta Hawks, New York Knicks) en route to a date with the Heat - and are actually playing, surprisingly, perhaps the most competitive series in the playoffs so far. Even with Danny Granger sidelined after just 5 games into the regular season, Paul George, David West and Roy Hibbert are providing another example of a "no superstars" blueprint (unless you count Paul George as a superstar) capable of matching up with the best team in the league - through their defense. Roy Hibbert, especially, is absolutely wrecking the relatively undersized Heat:

Roy Hibbert has gone for 20 points and 10 boards in three of the four games in this series; he did that just seven times the entire regular season, and he went for 19 and 9 in the one game this series that he missed the arbitrary round-number benchmark. And his defense hasn't missed a beat, either.

Even with a reinvigorated Birdman providing a lift to the Heat's woeful frontcourt, the Pacers are succeeding by dominating the glass and "uglying the game up" against LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. While I can't vouch for the games being any more exciting (or well officiated) than your average early season MLB snoozer, it's great to see the Pacers giving the Heat everything they can handle through the shameful flopping theatrics of James and Wade. Vlade Divac would have been proud of their acting skills in this series.

As small market teams go, the "Seven Seconds or Less"-era Phoenix Suns tried the uptempo, excellent-offense average-defense style, and only made it as far as the Western Conference Finals. We've all witnessed the Nuggets struggle to even make it out of the first round in the last decade playing a very similar style, never having reached the great heights of their first franchise Finals. Is it time for a seachange in the organization's thinking about how this team can succeed? Should we as fans demand a greater commitment to defense, and for Karl to retool his game plans to focus on slowing the game down? Can Karl adjust to a more defensive style? It would certainly make for a less exciting brand of basketball, but as we're currently seeing with the Pacers, it may not be pretty, but it's working.

Daily Links

Hawks hire Spurs assistant Budenholzer to head coach position

Bobcats (soon to be Hornets again!) name Steve Clifford as sixth head coach in as many years

Phoenix hires former fan favorite Jeff Hornacek to coach team

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior users will need to choose a permanent username, along with a new password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

I already have a Vox Media account!

Verify Vox Media account

Please login to your Vox Media account. This account will be linked to your previously existing Eater account.

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior MT authors will need to choose a new username and password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join Denver Stiffs

You must be a member of Denver Stiffs to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Denver Stiffs. You should read them.

Join Denver Stiffs

You must be a member of Denver Stiffs to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Denver Stiffs. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9347_tracker