Hey. It's Kelly. That wasn't fun, was it? The silly lockout, the terrible season, the Dwight Howard, and that awful first round. It's OK, though. It's over now. That is a bird chirping in the distance, I made a pretty good sandwich for your lunch and we don't have anything to do when you get home from work but watch a series of basketball games played by players that are rested, well-instructed, and mindful of what town they're in.
You're going to feel better, now. Your pal insists on it. That's what these columns are about — helping you feel better about the series you're about to watch. Let's leave the analysis and sometimes-hurtful criticism to others. That stuff can sting, you know.
It's OK. You have to remember that, while you ponder the obstacles that might have been in place had Derrick Rose not hurt himself two weeks ago, or had Dwight Howard not frittered away his team's season. If you're the type that delights in the misfortune of the most talented, of the biggest and baddest bear of them all, go ahead. I don't think it's healthy, and I don't think it's right, but who am I to judge?
If you delight in anything, then good for you. This is your time, pal. And nobody can that from you. You ever scratch a dog's chin so perfectly that his hind legs shake? That's the business, isn't it?
So don't feel awful, for wishing and hoping for obstacles to stick in front of these Miami Heat. It's only natural, and you've likely been doing it for years — hoping against the Lakers, or against the Bulls before that. And, in the form of a well-coached and sometimes snippy outfit from Indiana, the Heat might just have a whale of a series on their hands.
Sure, Miami had its way with Indiana during the regular season. And though the Pacers' cadre of athletic, versatile wing performers was matched and eclipsed by Miami's even stouter cadre of the same types, playoff ascension and a stated role as the designated underdog tend to change things. You play with abandon, if you're those plucky Indiana Pacers, because even though most observers have you taking a game or two in this series, nobody that I can see actually has you winning it. Play freely!
Another reason to watch, dear reader, is because you may not have seen much of the Indiana Pacers this year. Every waking moment of the Miami Heat's professional lives has been on camera since July of 2010, but Indiana isn't on national TV much. The team's first round lived almost exclusively on NBA TV (except for the times it didn't, lol!), and worryingly the state that loves to get all snooty about its love for basketball gave the East's third-best team the fifth-worst attendance in the NBA.
This is bordering on hurtful. I'll pull back. As an aside, I've had really fresh and rare raw tuna. And yet I derive just as much pleasure from the stuff that comes in a can. We need to remember this, any time life gives us the downsies.
The Miami Heat is 174 games into their well-heeled experiment, and yet you still get the feeling that the team needs reps above all. And even if these Pacers fall short — if Paul George continues to run in place, if Darren Collison betrays the advancements we've seen from him over the last couple of weeks — they'll likely give the Heat the sort of looks they're going to need to build on in anticipation of taking on any number of Western conference squads (as of Saturday afternoon, all five active teams look Finals-worthy, and that's not the optimist talking) in the Finals.
(We wouldn't presume to dismiss the Boston Celtics there, should they move past the Philadelphia 76ers in their first round series. It's just that Miami has seen these Celtics, plenty of times, since the 2010-11 season started. They're familiar. That's all. We're all fans.)
The Pacers and Heat could give us a truly entertaining playoff run, filled with all-out transition play that could exasperate and yet thrill at the same time. Both these teams played at middling paces during the regular season, but the combination of exacting coaching and long missed shots could give us quite a bit of fast break fun.
And if not, well, the Pacers are in the second round! They're new!
(Although seriously I was at a banquet honoring a sporting event on Friday night in Lafayette, Indiana; and five different people asked me how the "Pacers did this year" after learning what I did for a living. As if they weren't about to play the odds-on favorite for the NBA title later this weekend.)
You'll have fun with this series, friends. It's the right mix of athleticism and intrigue, even if it ends more quickly than we'd like.
In 49 other states, it's just basketball. In Indiana? I'm your pal.
Heat in six.
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