Like any art form: jazz, rap, poetry, to name a few, basketball has a distinct flavor on each coast. At it’s worst it is missed shot after missed shot but at its best it is last night’s Pacers-Heat Eastern Conference Finals opener. Though Indianapolis is located smack-dab in the middle of the country (well, a little northeast of exact middle, but there aren’t any NBA franchises closer to the middle, even if Kansas City would like a team) the Pacers play a style of basketball that harkens back to the mid-90’s. Think of the Knicks-Pacers. Remember Ewing, Oakley and Mason throwing elbows with Dale and Antonio Davis. Physical, to put it mildly.
With this Pacers team, every possession contains drama, the game takes an eternity to play out and when it is done there is nothing to do but turn the television off and ponder what you’ve just seen. The flipside to that of course is what happens when the team you are rooting for loses. It just leaves you verklempt. It also leaves you way too much time to think – how did the Pacers lose that game? Was it the coaching decision that had the most impactful defensive player (Hibbert) on either team on the bench? Just poor execution? The best player in the game (LeBron) doing what he does best (take it to the rim)?On the face of it that was one incredible basketball game. Clutch plays and hustle plays and two teams that really wanted to win. Enough sub-plots to engage even the most casual of fans. The bottom line however is that Miami dodged a bullet and Indiana lost a game they should have (could have) won and that never bodes well for a team looking to take the next step (see Golden State Warriors after Game 1 vs San Antonio). Before the game, Frank Vogel talked about not matching up (or down in his words) at the end of the game so it was curious that he decided to do so last night. To his credit, he owned the moment as did his players. This Pacers team is an impressive group and there is always the possibility that they do in Game 2 what they often did in Game 1 – dictate pace. With the exception of a jittery first six minutes (Lance Stephenson needs some meditation lessons), the Pacers played under control and didn’t panic. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that they get better play from George Hill and David West stays out of foul trouble and they win a game in the mid-80’s. It’s also a possibility that Ray Allen finds his stroke and Chris Bosh rebounds and Dwyane Wade is, well Dwyane Wade, assuming the knee holds up.
Will I watch? Yes. Will it hurt? Very possibly.
This is why they play and we watch the NBA playoffs.
David Barnes enjoys the west coast style of basketball, and lives very close to Jonah Hall.