Yesterday a friend and I were talking basketball, the conversation went something like this:
Him: “Are the Pacers gonna go undefeated?”
Ok maybe, maybe, they’ll lose a few. But I’m officially on the Pacers bandwagon now — my overreaction follows.
Indiana won again Monday, beating the Grizz 95-79 and moving to 8-0 on the season. As you probably already know, “Born Ready” Lance Stephenson fucked around and posted a triple-double (13pts, 12ast, 11rbds with 3 3ptm on 5-11fg’s), which is especially impressive considering he matched up against defensive specialist Tony Allen yesterday.
Without question, the Pacers have been the team to beat thus far; with Paul George, Roy Hibbert, and Lance Stephenson emerging as their (statistical) leaders. Indy has a roster full of players who compliment each other nicely, which is superbly exemplified by the chemistry clearly developing between George –the superstar, Hibbert — the defensive anchor, and Stephenson — the jack of all trades//2nd scoring option.
All young, explosive talents, they’re surrounded by an excellent supporting cast (that’s adding Danny Granger eventually as well) and they already have playoff experience to boot. Sadly, Lance won’t average a triple-double this season, but he offers a complete offensive game and fully deserves to continue playing around 35mpg, no matter who returns from injury (maybe sinking some goddamn free throws and grabbing a steal once and while might sure up those minutes, Lance).
The emergence of Stephenson’s offensive presence, added to what George and Hibbert have been doing, means the Pacers could be in the midst of unveiling the NBA’s next ‘big 3’ tandem. The rise of Indy’s superstar trio, in addition to their otherwise excellent (and deep) roster, likely pushes them to the next level. Should the Heat be worried? Indy seems to get better with every game, while Miami remains more or less static. And how many more times can Miami survive a playoff series with the Pacers?
Hold on, hold on. I’m slipping into a bottomless pit of vapid conjecture and rhetorical nihilism, give me a second.
Ok, alright, I’m good. Now, consider the following facts:
- Lebron James: 45%fg, 75%ft, 27.5 pts, 1.4 3ptm, 8.0asts, 5.9rbds, 0.7stls, 0.3blks, 3.9to
- Dwayne Wade: 49%fg, 66%ft, 20.2pts, 0.3 3ptm, 5.2asts, 4.5rbds, 2 stls, 0.7blks, 3.5to
- Chris Bosh: 58%fg, 79%ft, 18.5pts, 1.2 3ptm, 1.0 asts, 6.7rbds, 0.3 stls, 1.5blks, 1.7to
Total: 55%fg, 74%ft, 66.2pts, 2.9 3ptm, 14.2asts, 17.1 rbds, 3stls, 2.5blks, 9.1 to
- Paul George: 43%fg, 80%ft, 25.1pts, 3 3ptm, 4.0 asts, 7.9 rbds, 1.7stls, 0.4blks, 3.1to
- Lance Stephenson: 48%fg, 43%ft, 14.4pts, 2.1 3ptm, 4.9asts, 5.1rbds, 0.3stls, 0.1blks, 2.4to
- Roy Hibbert: 48%fg, 63%ft, 10.9pts, 1.1asts, 9rbds, 0.4stls, 4.3blks, 2.4to
Total: 49%fg, 73%ft, 50.4 pts, 5.1 3ptm, 8.9 asts, 22 rbds, 2.4stls, 4.8blks, 7.9 to
- Heat: 55%fg, 74%ft, 66.2pts, 2.9 3ptm, 14.2asts, 17.1 rbds, 3stls, 2.5blks, 9.1 to
- Pacers:49%fg, 73%ft, 50.4 pts, 5.1 3ptm, 8.9 asts, 22 rbds, 2.4stls, 4.8blks, 7.9 to
Heat take points, assists, steals, fg% and ft%.
Pacers take 3’s, boards, blocks, and turnovers.
Heat win 5-4, by a fraction of a ft% point.
Headed into week 3, the Heat threesome still emerges victorious, but by the slimmest of margins. Regardless, I like the Pacers and their big 3 for the long run anyhow. Here are a few reason why:
- The Pacers have a deeper roster that’s more balanced — top to bottom — than the Heat’s, and most other NBA teams as well. This helps max out upside throughout the roster, and catalyzes the development of younger players.
- The Pacers can hit the three ball with ease. Despite the cliche, threes are the great equalizer; never count sharpshooters out of a game. Lebron is respectable from distance and suddenly Bosh is passable too; but Wade struggles from outside, and none of them make the deep ball a priority. Ultimately these three can’t pour it in like Indy. Ray Allen, however…
- Bosh just can’t bang with Hibbert, giving Indiana a significant advantage in the paint. Nonetheless, Miami always seems to overcome the flaws of their front court in the end. At some point, though, you’d expect this to catch up with them; everyone gets caught eventually.
- The Pacers’ threesome has way more upside. The Heat trio is aging faster than anyone wants to admit, and while they certainly aren’t regressing, their combined upside has essentially maxed out. Meanwhile, the Pacers’ threesome features guys still growing and improving as professionals. Only scratching the surface of their potential, and Indy’s trio already presents an imposing match-up for Miami’s Big 3 of lore. Scary.
- Building on #4 — younger players generally become more efficient scorers as they gain experience. The Pacers 3 could realistically finish this season as the more efficient group.
- Paul George is one of the few NBA players who can effectively cover Lebron James 1 on 1. Danny Granger can too if he’s fully healthy.
Obviously there’s a lot of basketball left to play, and all of this could change at any minute, but Indiana seems poised to break out of the East — led by George, Hibbert, and Stephenson. Based on their current production, eye-popping upside, and a bold prophecy foretold to me by Miss Cleo in March of 2001, I’m buying in on the Pacers and the NBA’s next big 3 right now.
Featured image: courtesy of Key Dae, writer for http://www.canishoopus.com, linked from http://www.canishoopus.com/2010/6/1/1496605/born-ready
Second image: courtesy of 4chan, from http://archive.foolz.us/q/thread/662598
Third image: courtesy of Dana Becker, writer for http://www.mmaconvert.com, linked from http://www.mmaconvert.com/2013/07/08/ufc-162-post-anderson-silva-admits-mistakes-were-made-in-loss/
Fourth image: courtesy of Rebecca Barthel, writer for http://www.xojane.com/, linked from http://www.xojane.com/it-happened-to-me/it-happened-to-me-i-was-a-telephone-psychic-for-miss-cleo