The Eastern Conference Finals have provided some unexpected drama, and the defending champs find themselves in an almighty Game 7 with the Indiana Pacers.
Just the second Game 7 of the postseason, many (including myself) find themselves shocked that the Indiana Pacers have made it this far, but with a combination of Paul George's emerging stardom, Roy Hibbert's 20+ points and 10+ rebounds per game, Lance Stephenson's sporadic contributions, and David West's grit, this Pacers squad has become the festering thorn in the side of Erik Spoelstra. George, Hibbert, and West have outscored James, Wade, and Bosh 368-332 in this series. One would hope such a fierce and valiant effort from the feisty underdog to make for an epic conclusion, but the last time this team was in Miami, (Game 5) they were outscored by LeBron James 16-13 in the third quarter. "They" meaning the entire Pacers team. The story for Indiana has been their ability to contain LeBron's supporting cast and find ways to score the basketball. Tonight presents their most daunting challenge on a stage that LeBron and co. are much more familiar with. For tonight's Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals, here are some final notes for the game:
- Chris "Birdman" Anderson was suspended in Game 5 for the Tyler Hansborough shove in Game 4. His presence was certainly missed for Miami. Look for his energy to have impact immediately upon entering the game.
- Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh combined for a vanishing 15 points and 1 assist in Game 6, the lowest combination of the two since becoming teammates. Wade's activity and Bosh's shot making early on could ignite the crowd and give Miami an early lift offensively.
- Indiana seems to be particularly successful when George Hill and Lance Stephenson are effective and contributing. If they have any chance of winning this game all members of Indiana's roster must be extremely efficient.
- I know Indiana won Game 6 despite committing over 20 turnovers, but that number won't cut it in South Beach. No more than 13-14 turnovers for a Pacers victory.
- The LeBron James-Paul George match up has been entertaining. The 23-year-old now must try to knock off the MVP on his home court. His early body language should be indicative of his approach for the game.
- My long standing theory that a Miami Heat repeat has more to do with Dwayne Wade than LeBron James seems to be unfolding. Wade's comments about keeping him and Bosh more involved after Game 6 will be something to watch for in Miami's early attack.
My guess? Miami makes shots at home, LeBron is LeBron, and Indiana crumbles under the epic circumstances. Miami 95 Indiana 79