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Burning questions as Pacers prepare for Heat


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Can they do it?

Yes, they can.

Will they do it?

Ah, wouldn’t we like to know.

At this point, all we know about the Indiana Pacers is that they are capable of anything.

Three weeks ago, when they trailed the Atlanta Hawks 3-2, a first-round exit seemed likely.

It didn’t happen.

When they lost their home-opener in the next round against the super-hyped Washington Wizards, the Eastern Conference Finals seemed an impossible destination.

Yet here they are, having defied all odds, and logic, for a second consecutive conference finals showdown with the Miami Heat.

Only this time, the Pacers are the No. 1 seed.

So, what are we to make of it all?

In light of recent events, conventional wisdom suggests the Pacers have little chance. They barely survived the first round; were unpredictable in the second; and, unlike the Heat, won’t be rested for the third.

Oh, and the Heat have been exponentially better than Indiana in the playoffs — further strengthening conventional wisdom.

But here’s what to keep in mind about the Pacers. Dreadful as they’ve been at times, during the second half of the season as well as the playoffs, they have bucked conventional wisdom.

Remember when, during the height of the regular-season swoon, they were going to yield the top seed to Miami?

Never happened.

Remember when the eighth-seeded Hawks were going to shock the world and vanquish the Pacers?

Never happened.

Remember when the Wizards, after stealing homecourt advantage out of the gate, were going to finish the job Atlanta couldn’t?

Never happened.

Remember when the Pacers were given no chance to beat Miami in the Eastern Conference finals?

We’ll see what happens.

Despite a wealth of rational arguments suggesting a quick kill for the Heat, rationality might not figure into the equation. It hasn’t yet in the playoffs.

Not with regard to Indiana.

Despite maddening inconsistency, frequent disappearing acts by All-Star players and inexplicable home losses (lopsided ones, at that), the Pacers have — to date — accomplished everything they set out to do.

Objective No. 1 was home-court advantage throughout the East playoffs. They earned it. Objective No. 2 was returning to the conference finals. They got there.

By virtue of those achievements, the Pacers — regardless of how disjointed they looked achieving them — have positioned themselves to fulfill objective No. 3: beat the Heat and advance to the NBA Finals.

That’s all that matters.

Aesthetically and athletically, Indiana has seldom been a sight to behold in the playoffs. But its preseason goal of playing for a championship is still within reach. LeBron & Co. might very well put it out of reach, but for the moment, it isn’t.

Maybe it won’t be.

In theory, the Pacers can win the series by simply protecting home court — something they’ve been unable to do in the playoffs, as evidenced by their 3-4 record at the fieldhouse. But they’ve claimed two other series by being able to win on the road, something they did twice in the semifinals.

Granted, Miami isn’t Washington, and certainly isn’t Atlanta. The defending two-time NBA champion Heat have played like, well, a two-time defending champion throughout the postseason. They are rested and undaunted about where they play. Homecourt advantage means little to them. There is truth to the axiom that they can turn it off and turn it on whenever they want to.

And make no mistake, the Heat will turn it on for this series. They know how to seize the moment.

Which brings us back to the Pacers, who often shrink in the spotlight but shine at just the right moment.

Can they do it?

Yes, they can.

Will they do it?

Wouldn’t we all like to know.

Rick Morwick is the sports editor of the Daily Journal, a sister paper to The Republic. Send comments to sports@therepublic.com.

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