The Pacers won a narrow margin of victory over the Heat. It's still March, but let's take a look at a handful of things you noticed from the game.
1. Greg Oden is not the answer we thought he was, at this point.
It was hyped to be this. Oden, and Indiana native, brought in solely to see how he could slow down Roy Hibbert. Oden had made his 5th start, was gaining confidence and had played a season high in minutes the previous game. Then, Wilt Chamberlain's spirit took over Hibbert for the first quarter. Oden looked slow, a step behind, and a determined Hibbert took it to him. Hibbert averages 11.1 PPG, and was held to 3 points the previous game by Joakim Noah. But on this one, he eclipsed his season average before the first quarter was over.
Greg Oden wasn't the answer, in fact, he didn't even get a second chance at Roy as Udonis Haslem started the second half. Oden didn't play again. Haslem did a much better job of making life difficult on Hibbert, but in a series, Hibbert will figure out Haslem. The Heat still need Greg Oden guarding Roy Hibbert, he just wasn't ready at this point. He might not be ready this season, but the Heat still need to see him as a key. Roy worked Oden and made it look easy.
2. Flagrants, Rule of Verticality and basketball plays need to be analyized.
There's a growing sense of this idea of a "basketball play" and that when one doesn't make a play that resembles basketball, it should be reviewed. LeBron James has been through this before, Kirk Hinrich among others have made their attempts to slow LeBron by just tackling him and preventing a basket. James was clotheslined by Ian Mahinmi in this one, although not a brutal hit, it was around the neck, and not a basketball play. Then Luis Scola hit James in the face in the same swinging manner that Haslem displayed to Tyler Hansbrough last year. James took the hit, it was reviewed and both plays were deemed common fouls.
Then the most bizarre play went the Pacers way. James attacked Roy Hibbert, who is always protecting his air space, and while in the air, and two hands on the ball, shooting mind-you, makes contact with Hibbert's face via his elbow. It was a brutal hit, one that gave Hibbert at 10 second KO to the ground. But it was a basektbal play, not intentional, and completely accidental in the attempt to score. It was called a common foul, reviewed, and then changed to a flagrant, which, by the way, is not supposed to happen.
"Our guys are getting punched in the face, man. You know what I'm saying? We're getting punched in the face and clotheslined. And we're getting two shots. And we get an offensive foul called and it's a flagrant. I guess maybe we need to really decipher what flagrant means, because I don't feel that they were going for the ball. If you come down and clothesline somebody, it's open season. And people are going to get hurt. LeBron got punched in the face and clotheslined." -- Chris Bosh
The Heat have made it clear that Hibbert abuses his "Rule of Verticality" stance as he typically disobeys the 10 degree exception to going straight up. They weren't happy, and neither should we. These types of calls should be clarified and looked at with some common sense. I don't want to sound bitter, but their should be some consistency.
3. Spoelstra is still uncertain on rotations
It was a little bizarre to me, watching this game, to see what Erik Spoelstra was doing. Ray Allen stayed back with the flu, and this caused Spo to change his rotation, so he did and it was understandable. He took Chalmers out earlier so he could then come in for Wade at his usual break. But, with him not giving Oden a second chance, Haslem saw more minutes, and then Rashard Lewis suddenly jumped both Shane Battier and Michael Beasley in the rotation. In fact, Beasley and Battier (who has started most the season, and been instrumental in both playoff runs) didn't even play!
James said after the game that both guys need to be in the rotation. Chris Bosh sat out the last few minutes and didn't come back in until under a minute to play, although because of foul trouble. Spo still decided to go with Lewis over Bosh. It's clear Spo is still tweaking and seeing what he has, and that's fine, it's the regular season. But Spo can't have another year where Dexter Pittman makes a playoff start or Battier starts and then gets benched for two games. It needs to be determined and figured out in the next three weeks.
4. LeBron wants the last shot.
"That's the play we drew up," James said. "We ran a play."
It was clear, he would have preferred to be taking the shot after already scoring 38 points. This is a good sign. He used to shy away a bit, but now he has shown the ability to score or make the play. He made the right pass to Bosh, but he would have liked to seen something else drown up.
"Unfortunately, that is what I diagrammed. It probably wasn't the best call and might be a little bit too gunslinger. With the game that LeBron had, obviously, you'd want to get him the ball." -- Erik Spoelstra
It's good to see James wanting that, and upset when he doesn't get it. LeBron is one of the more clutch players in the league despite what you may believe. He just had a game winner against Portland, an no one is forgetting what happened in Oakland. If that shot goes down, which is Bosh's money shot, then the discussion is completely different, obviously.
5. This is a rivalry.
No matter what they say, it is. They played hard, with expression, technicals, pushing, blood, hard fouls, knockouts, and a distaste after losing. No matter what way you slice it, the Pacers are the Heat's main foe, until the Finals, and they have to accept the rivalry. The Pacers have every tool needed to beat Miami, it's just a matter of which team imposes their will on the other.
Get ready Miami, because these teams will be playing in May, and it will be hard, it will be difficult, but it will be fun.