Will Miami Turn Up the Heat or Will The Pacers Run Out of Gas?


The Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers have been moving in different directions in these playoffs, with the Pacers dispatching a supposedly superior New York Knicks team and the Heat struggling against an injury and illness depleted Chicago Bulls squad.  These different directions can be shown by looking at a few noteworthy streaks which have occurred during this series and in the games leading up to it, and may culminate in a very unexpected outcome tonight.  That outcome depends on how a few questions regarding these streaks are answered by the players involved.

May 30, 2013; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat shooting guard Dwyane Wade (3) takes a breather during the second half in game five of the Eastern Conference finals against the Indiana Pacers of the 2013 NBA Playoffs at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

1)  Will Dwyane Wade finally show up?

In a postseason filled with disappointing performances by Miami Heat players Wade is the most significant. Everything the Heat do on either end of the floor is based on the one-two punch of Wade and Lebron James, using their athleticism to roam passing lanes, contest shots at the rim, quickly close out shooters on defense and to break down defenses to create open looks for themselves or the team’s many outside shooters on offense.

Things have not played out that way in this postseason, with Wade turning in a decidedly lacklustre performance.  Gone is the aggressive defense he used to stymie the likes of Derrick Rose and James Harden in playoff series past, replaced by drives to the rim by Paul George and open outside shots for Indiana shooters as Wade gets caught watching the ball and is slow to rotate back to the correct position.  The aggressive drives to the rim and athletic fast break finishes are few and far between, and the space those feats of athleticism afforded him for his jumpshot has disappeared.

Wade is currently on a streak of twelve games where he has scored 20 or fewer points, the longest of his career with the only comparable occurrences being a pair of 9 game streaks during his rookie season. Wade has clearly been slowed by injuries but after his post-game 6 comments he owes it to his team to finally play at something which at least resembles his usual level.

Jun 1, 2013; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Miami Heat shooting guard Ray Allen (34) shoots against the Indiana Pacers during the first half in game six of the Eastern Conference finals of the 2013 NBA Playoffs at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

2)  Will Ray Allen find the bottom of the net?

This is only the second time in Allen’s stellar career in which he has shot 40% or less in 6 games or more. This playoff run featured the first time in his career in which he scored 6 points or fewer in more than 3 consecutive games, the six game streak ending when he scored 11 points in game 4. Even his historically great free throw shooting has suffered, with Allen’s three consecutive games in which he attempted free throws while making fewer than two-thirds of them being the second longest of his career. There has been this feeling that the streak-ending game is looming but it never quite gets here.

May 1, 2013; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Pacers forward Paul George (24) high fives center Roy Hibbert (55) after he scored against the Atlanta Hawks in game five of the first round of the 2013 NBA Playoffs at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

3)  Will Roy Hibbert and Paul George continue their stellar play?

Hibbert is having his way with the smaller Heat frontcourt and is currently on a streak of seven games where he has scored 19 or more points, easily topping his previous high of four games. At this point it’s difficult to say how much of this is Hibbert reaching a new level and how much of it is a string of games against an opponent who is clearly physically outmatched.  His history of inconsistent play suggests that this high level of play could disappear in an instant but he has continued his dominance.

George is also riding a hot streak, with the streak of four 20+ point games he posted the longest and a streak of seven 4+ assist games being the second longest of his career. The last two games have also been only the second time he has 25+ points in consecutive games since making the jump to the NBA. It’s not clear what the Heat can do to stop him, with LeBron having to conserve energy for offense and Wade being almost entirely ineffective.  Ray Allen has defended him well for stretches but he’s not young enough to sustain that for a series anymore.  The only person who is capable of staying with him right now is the one who is already doing almost everything for Miami, I don’t think they can realistically ask him to be their defensive stopper on top of all of that.  George appears to be in a great position to show that his Most Improved Player award was well-earned with yet another solid all-around game against the defending champs and best player in the league.

That’s more or less the story of the series so far: the Pacers streaking upward while the Heat hurtle down in a nosedive, seemingly with a crash landing in their immediate future. If I’m a betting man I still put my money on James to find a way to snatch the victory away from the Pacers but as NBA history has shown one man is generally not enough to get the job done against a quality team like the Pacers. If the struggling Heat players don’t figure out a way to reverse their fortunes or find a way to slow down their streaking Pacers counterparts this may be the night their season ends.