Tag Archives: Indiana Pacers

Paul George Injury Leaves Questions in Eastern Conference

After Paul George suffered that devastating leg injury that will keep him out for next season, the Indiana Pacers lost a valuable member of their squad. Without George, there is little hope for the Pacers’ title hopes in 2015. Although this may not take them out of the postseason just yet, let’s look at some threatening teams in the Eastern Conference.

The Cleveland Cavaliers are a favorite simply because they have LeBron James. Not only that, but they also have an All-Star point guard in Kyrie Irving and a future superstar in Andrew Wiggins. However, their front court could be their ultimate downfall. The main reason why James was so successful in Miami was because he had Chris Bosh pulling in rebounds and giving him extra chances. Last year’s number one draft pick Anthony Bennett was a huge disappointment, but he is the best option for next season’s starting forward position. For center, they have Anderson Varejao and Brendan Haywood, but they are old veterans that can be reliable in all 82 games next season. Tristan Thompson would make a good fit at the power forward spot and Dion Waiters will make a great back-court player that could compliment both Irving and James. It’s mostly wait-and-see at this point for the Cavaliers.

LeBron James' return to Cleveland gives the Cavaliers the best chance for a title run next year. Credit: www.cleveland.com
LeBron James’ return to Cleveland gives the Cavaliers the best chance for a title run next year.
Credit: http://www.cleveland.com

The Chicago Bulls look to be the favorite in the East as well. They have an established coaching staff that knows how to win with low-caliber players, but this year, they get Derrick Rose back…again. If Rose can stay healthy, this Bulls team will be Cleveland’s main competition in the Central Division. They signed Pau Gasol in free agency and landed Doug McDermott in the NBA Draft. All of the pieces are there with Joakim Noah coming off a terrific year, winning the NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award. Guys like Taj Gibson, Jimmy Butler and Ronnie Brewer will also aid Rose in chasing that elusive NBA Finals, somewhere they haven’t been since Michael Jordan led the way many years ago.

Derrick Rose looks for a breakout year. The last time he played a full season, he won the MVP averaging 25 points, 7.7 assists and 4.1 rebounds per game. Credit: pagesix.com
Derrick Rose looks for a breakout year. The last time he played a full season, he won the MVP averaging 25 points, 7.7 assists and 4.1 rebounds per game.
Credit: pagesix.com

With the Pacers, Cavaliers and Bulls fighting for the Central Division, let’s take a look at some other potentially threatening teams in the East. The New York Knicks and Toronto Raptors will be battling for the Atlantic Division. Carmelo Anthony’s decision to return to New York will definitely give them a chance. Phil Jackson looks to make this team a consistent winner in the East and will have to go through the upstart Raptors in order to get there. The Raptors finished last season with the 3-seed in the East with a surprising 48-34 record. They did better than the Brooklyn Nets who landed a tight 44-38 finish. Coach Lionel Hollins will try to make his new Nets team a title contender this year. If he can’t get them that good in a short amount of time, the Knicks and Raptors will dominate this division.

The two most surprising teams last year were the Washington Wizards and the Charlotte Bobcats. Both finished with more than 42 wins, which is saying a lot for both of these franchises. The back-court combination of John Wall and Bradley Beal will definitely keep the Wizards in the championship race, but their front court will have to play consistently well in order to compete in the division. The Bobcats are now back to being called the Hornets and hopefully this rejuvenated team will make more surprises this year. With the Miami Heat losing some firepower because of the whole Decision 2.0 fiasco, the Southeast Division is wide open for the taking. Even the Atlanta Hawks are contenders after making the playoffs last year with a losing record. You can never count out everyone ¬†in that division. Unless you’re the Orlando Magic.

The Eastern Conference will definitely be more interesting this year and a lot more competitive. Unfortunately for the Pacers, their chance at a title shot is dampened with the George injury. Hopefully they can learn some lessons from Chicago on how to make the playoffs without your superstar player.

NBA Finals Rematch

After a Game Six blowout and a Game Six overtime victory, the Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs are in the NBA Finals for a second straight year. The Heat defeated the Indiana Pacers 117-92 last Friday behind LeBron James and his 25 points and 6 assists. The Spurs will make the NBA Finals in back-to-back seasons for the first time in franchise history after beating the Oklahoma City Thunder 112-107 in overtime. Tim Duncan had 19 points and 15 rebounds in the Western Conference Finals win. He had to step up his game after point guard Tony Parker went down in the third quarter with an ankle injury. He hopes to return to action in the NBA Finals, a series of games he just can’t miss.

The Thunder had a great run this year. Kevin Durant won his first MVP and Russell Westbrook played beautifully for most of the postseason. His 34 points, 8 assists, 7 rebounds and 6 steals in the losing effort showed that he played well. However, his 7 turnovers proved otherwise. Westbrook missed a lot of big shots and took a lot of big shots, but he just could not help Durant get back to the NBA Finals.

As for the Pacers, Lance Stephenson’s unorthodox defensive methods were not enough as he just could not contain “The King.” James had his way with him and now Stephenson, Paul George, Roy Hibbert and the rest of the Pacers will have to wait their turn next year after losing to the Heat three straight times in the NBA playoffs. Head Coach Frank Vogel is expected to return and hopefully his team can be more prepared for the Heat next season.

Last year, the Heat defeated the Spurs 95-88 in Game Seven on the NBA Finals to win their second straight title. This year, they are looking at a three-peat, joining the likes of Boston, Chicago and the Los Angeles Lakers. The Spurs will be looking for revenge. Duncan is hoping to win one last championship before he retires as a Hall of Famer. He has proved to be one of the best power forwards to ever play the game, but with another title at his grasp, he just can’t help but try to win one more. With Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, Boris Diaw and Kawhi Leonard stepping up, this Spurs team could prove to be more trouble for the Heat than last year. This will be the series to truly determine who the best team in the NBA is. The Spurs are known to get a lot of productivity from their bench players. The Heat are going to have to do the same if they want that third straight title. Tune in this Thursday at 9 p.m. on ABC to watch Game One of the NBA Finals.

NBA Conference Finals are Set

Four teams punched their tickets to the NBA Conference Finals and all four teams are the top two seeds in their conference. It will truly be a test to see who the best team in the West and the East really are. First, let’s see how each team got there.

The Miami Heat were expected to make it this far, after sweeping the Charlotte Bobcats and finished off the Brooklyn Nets in five games. Ray Allen knocked down the go-ahead 3-pointer with 32 seconds left in Game 5 to advance the Heat to the Eastern Conference Finals with a 96-94 victory.  LeBron James has been a dominant force in the playoffs, averaging 30 points a game. The Heat is looking for a three-peat, but they will first have to handle the Indiana Pacers.

The Pacers have struggled throughout the playoffs, and many thought they wouldn’t make it this far after their poor performance against the Washington Wizards. This team has had trouble rebounding and boxing out. Indiana had to go all the way to Game Seven with the Atlanta Hawks (a team with a losing record), but they finally ended up beating the Wizards last night 93-80 in Game Six. Roy Hibbert has not been the same player he was during the regular season. He averaged 10.8 points, 6.6 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game and now during the postseason, he is averaging 8.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game. He has also gone three games without scoring a single point (two against the Hawks and one against the Wizards in Game One). If Hibbert can play consistently against the Heat and have games like he did in Game Two against the Wizards where he had 28 points, 9 rebounds and 2 blocks, then the Pacers might have a chance.

Paul George has played consistently well in the playoffs, averaging 21.9 points and 8.7 rebounds a game. Credit: indystar.com
Paul George has played consistently well in the playoffs, averaging 21.9 points and 8.7 rebounds a game.
Credit: indystar.com

As for the San Antonio Spurs, the one-seed out in the West is not having too much difficulty getting to where they are now. They did have to go to Game Seven against the Dallas Mavericks in the first round, but they were able to close out and move on to the Portland Trail Blazers. Against Portland, the Spurs defeated them in five games and all five wins were dominant victories. They closed out on a 104-82 blow out on the Trail Blazers last Wednesday. Coach of the Year Gregg Popovich has this team right where it needs to be and they have been playing great basketball lately. The only concern is the injury status of Tony Parker. The veteran point guard has a tight hamstring that might limit his mobility, but he says that he is ready to go. Small forward Kawhi Leonard has really stepped up for this team. He is one of the youngest players on the roster and he has made a big difference. During the regular season, Leonard averaged 12.8 points and 6.2 rebounds a game. In the postseason, Leonard has averaged 14 points and 7.5 rebounds a game. His performance is the X-Factor when the Spurs take on the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference Finals.

Speaking of the Thunder, they have had a roller-coaster ride of a postseason. They have had the strongest playoff schedule out of any of the teams. First, they took out the Memphis Grizzlies in seven games after being down 2-1. Then they just recently beat the L.A. Clippers in Game Six 104-98, after through tough matches with them. After that win, they will advance to the Western Conference Finals for the third time in the last four years. Kevin Durant has arguably been the best player in the postseason, leading all players with 31.4 points a game and capping off the Game Six victory over the Clippers with an amazing performance of 39 points, 16 rebounds and 5 assists. He also has six double-doubles this postseason, showing that he has been carrying this team on his back and lifting them up game after game. Teammate Russell Westbrook has been a game-changer this entire postseason. When he plays well, the Thunder win. When he doesn’t play well, they don’t win. Oklahoma City has to rely on both Durant and Westbrook to bring their best against San Antonio. While Durant has had double-doubles, Westbrook has had triple-doubles. His first one came in a losing effort against the Memphis Grizzlies in Game Five on the first round of the playoffs. Then his Game Seven performance against them was historic, with 27 points, 16 assists and 10 rebounds. His best game to date was in Game Two against the L.A. Clippers where he had 31 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. If Westbrook can play consistently well, the Thunder could go very far. They have already swept the Spurs during the regular season and have played well against them in recent years.

Kevin Durant will have to keep his scoring pace going as the MVP takes on the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Finals. Credit: nba.si.com
Kevin Durant will have to keep his scoring pace going as the MVP takes on the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Finals.
Credit: nba.si.com

The Eastern Conference Finals will be played first on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. The Indiana Pacers will host the Miami Heat for the first game of the series. Then on Monday, the San Antonio Spurs will host the Oklahoma City Thunder at 9 p.m. for the first game of that series. These games are must-see NBA playoff T.V. It’s the four best teams of the NBA squaring off and you just can’t miss it!

2014 NBA Playoff Match-Ups

The NBA playoffs are finally here! This is where the games really matter. The 1-seeds are the Indiana Pacers for the East and San Antonio Spurs for the West. Miami just dropped down to a 2-seed after losing three games in a row to end the regular season. Oklahoma City fell three games behind San Antonio, but they did end the season with a 112-111 win over the Detroit Pistons last night where Kevin Durant went off for 42 points. Speaking of 42, that’s how many consecutive games Durant scored 25 points or more. That streak is longer than what Michael Jordan did in that magical 1986-87 season. The small forward’s streak ended at Sacramento on April 8th where he scored only 23 points in the 107-92 win. Durant also wins the NBA scoring title for the 4th time, averaging 32 points per game. He also finished with 7.4 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game, leading the Thunder to a 59-23 record with Russell Westbrook gone most of the season. Look for Durant to finally win that coveted NBA MVP award that has eluded him so many times. The Thunder will play the Memphis Grizzlies this Saturday in the first round of the playoffs at 9:30 P.M.

This year, the Memphis Grizzlies did pretty well under first-year head coach David Joerger. His Grizzlie’s squad ended up 3rd in points allowed, making them one of the most underrated defenses in the league. The team finished 50-32 and ended the regular season on a 5-game winning streak (tied with Portland Trail Blazers). Their last game was a 106-105 overtime victory over the Dallas Mavericks. Zach Randolph finished the game with 27 points and 14 rebounds, his 47th double-double of the season. The big power forward averaged a double-double in the regular season with 17.4 points and 10.1 rebounds per game. Look for him to step up big in the upcoming game against the Thunder.

Randolph leads his team in both points and rebounds. Credit: forums.celticsblog.com
Randolph leads his team in both points and rebounds.
Credit: forums.celticsblog.com

Staying in the West, San Antonio finished the season with the best record in the NBA at 62-20. Gregg Popovich’s squad led the league in assists with 25.2 per game and ranked 6th in both points scored and points allowed. With Tim Duncan dominating inside and Tony Parker running the offense, there is no telling how far they could go this year. Their first test will be Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks on Easter Sunday at 1:00 P.M.

The other 1-seed, Indiana, finished the season on a high note, winning their last two games of the season and landed a 56-26 record. Their defense has been the talk of the NBA. They are 2nd in points allowed per game and are 8th in rebounds per game. The addition of injury-prone Andrew Bynum actually worked out pretty well in their favor. They were able to put big-man Roy Hibbert on the bench and still produce great numbers with Bynum snagging 9.5 rebounds a game. Speaking of Hibbert, he only missed one game this entire season and was very productive with 10.8 points, 6.6 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game. The Pacers will play the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday at 9 P.M. They are expected to easily win this series, seeing that the Hawks are the only team in the playoffs with a losing record of 38-44.

Hibbert finished 4th in the NBA in blocks per game. Credit: archive.indystar.com
Hibbert finished 4th in the NBA in blocks per game.
Credit: archive.indystar.com

I thought that the biggest surprises this year were the Washington Wizards and the Charlotte Bobcats. Both of these teams were horrible last year (none of these two teams had more than 30 wins in 2012-13). Led by point guard John Wall, the Wizards have a 5-seed and a 44-38 record. They will play against the Chicago Bulls, who have won 8 of their last 10 games. As for the Bobcats, Al Jefferson has been a great addition to this club. He has led the team in points (21.8) and rebounds (10.8) and has provided veteran leadership for this team. After putting up solid numbers in Boston, Minnesota and Utah, the 6’10 center might have finally found a home in North Carolina. His Bobcats squad will play the Miami Heat on Easter Sunday at 3:30 P.M. The last time Jefferson played against the Heat, he put up monster numbers with 38 points and 19 rebounds in the 124-107 loss back on March 3rd. He will have to elevate the play of his team around him if they want to defeat the NBA Final-favorites.

Jefferson finished this season with 21.8 points per game which is the second highest average in his career. Credit: usatoday.com
Jefferson finished this season with 21.8 points per game which is the second highest average in his career.
Credit: usatoday.com

As for the other playoff match-ups, the Los Angeles Clippers will play the Golden State Warriors, the Houston Rockets will square off against the Portland Trail Blazers and the surging Toronto Raptors will take on the Brooklyn Nets, a team that has struggled to beat opponents within its own conference. In the NBA, there’s always at least one upset. This year, I can’t truly predict who will rise and who will fall, but I will promise you this: it will be a fantastic playoff run this year.