(Photo Credit: Jonathan Daniel)
The Miami HEAT kick off a six-game road trip in Indianapolis where they take on the Indiana Pacers. The HEAT and Pacers last met in the second round of the Eastern Conference Playoffs. The HEAT are 23-9 and lead the Eastern Conference. The Pacers are 20-14 and fifth in the standings. Tipoff is set for 7 PM; coverage on Sun Sports at 6:30 PM.1. The Pacers are 20-14 with an average point differential of 1.5. Is their record about what it should be?
Couper Moorhead: Considering how bad the Eastern Conference has been and that the Pacers lead the league in defensive efficiency, a middle seed and a record well above .500 is about right. Things would look a little different in the West because the Pacers also have the second-worst offensive efficiency in the league, but a top-tier defense is almost always going to get you into the postseason, and it also stabilizes your place in the standings. After a slow start, Indiana is about where we thought they would be.
Danny Martinez: It’s been studied and proven that point differentials are better evaluators of teams than wins and losses. This is because close games are largely decided by luck, or randomness if the word “luck” makes you uncomfortable. The Pacers’ point differential leads their expected record to be 19-15. That’s not all that different than the 20-14 they are. So yes, that’s about what their record should be. Their schedule has been road heavy, so their start has been very impressive. It’s no secret that they’re success is built on their league-best defense. Once Danny Granger returns, look out.2. What is going on with Roy Hibbert, who is shooting 40.6 percent this season?
Couper: This is one of the great mysteries of the 2012-13 season. I’ve heard a few things about injuries with him that might be hindering his ability to make his go-to hook shots around the rim, but the fact is he has been one of the least efficient big men in the league to date – especially considering that he still uses over a fifth of Indiana’s offensive possessions. Hibbert is much better than he has been playing, but with so few answers, it’s tough to say when he’s going to turn things around.
Danny: Last season Hibbert shot over 57 percent at the rim. This season that number is down to 48 percent. Whatever the cause, it’s difficult to be efficient offensively when you can’t make half of your layups, hook shots and dunks. Hibbert’s hook shot last season was deadly. This season it has been very pedestrian. Hibbert’s offense may be effected by a loss of space with Danny Granger out, but I’d be willing to be it’s just a random fluctuation in his shooting.3. How would a playoff series play out between these two teams if the playoffs started this week?
Couper: Probably about the same as last year if you take out Dwyane Wade’s knee issues. Indiana’s defense is strong enough to be very competitive, but it’s not a defense that matches up particularly well with the HEAT, who can play small and force Hibbert to defend pick-and-roll after pick-and-roll. Last year, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade were able to come off screens and dash into the paint whenever they wanted because Hibbert wouldn’t come above the free-throw line – basically giving the HEAT a free shot whenever they wanted it. And once Wade started cutting to the rim off the ball, the series was never quite the same.
Danny: It wouldn’t be all that different than last season if you just look at the result. The way the HEAT would get there would be different. The HEAT were without Chris Bosh after the first half of Game 1 of the series. Also, the HEAT had yet to go “small.” This time around, Chris Bosh would help Dwyane Wade and LeBron James with Roy Hibbert by dragging him out to the perimeter where he can’t challenge shots. The HEAT would own a serious speed advantage over the Pacers this time around, something that was tremendously hindered by injuries in 2012.