The 2013 NBA Playoffs have been short on suspense and long on boredom. The four semifinal series ended in six games or less and, after San Antonio swept Memphis, the stage was set for the Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat to give basketball fans the hard-fought series this postseason hasn't seen.
They've delivered. Miami will host Indiana June 3 for what should be a raucous Game 7. LeBron James and the defending champion Heat will battle Paul George and the promising Pacers. Who wins, and why? Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley of the AFRO Sports Desk debate the question.
Riley: You have to admire the way the Pacers have played throughout this series. They've been poised, precise and prolonged games, playing their style of basketball and not getting sucked into the Heat’s run-and-gun antics. George has been steady but the inside tandem of Roy Hibbert and David West have punished Miami at every turn. There’s literally no pressure on the Pacers as they enter Monday night. They weren't expected to be here, and all eyes will be on James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. The stage is set for an upset and the Pacers have the talent and manpower to get it done.
Green: This is what separates the great teams from the title chasers. Miami is on the verge of their third NBA Finals appearance, while Indiana is seeking its first Finals appearance since 2000. The experience is going to make a difference and you’ll see James and Wade play with confidence and poise. We still have yet to see last year’s Heat team who just ran everyone out of the gym. I think their best is yet to come and what better time to unleash it than Game 7?
Riley: The reason why we haven't seen that Miami team is because that team is no more. Wade is clearly damaged beyond repair, and everyone just seems to be taking a backseat to James while he tries to hoist the team on his back like he’s still in Cleveland. Miami simply hasn't been impressive at all this postseason. Even though they defeated the Chicago Bulls in five games, they fought tooth and nail against a depleted Bulls roster missing its signature star. The Pacers, however, have been impressive and made believers along the way. Their defeat of the Knicks in six games was an eye-opener, and now they have Miami backed into a corner. From top to bottom, this is just a more complete team than their opposition. They defend, they score in the low post, they play together and they have a certified star in George who can make clutch plays. Miami’s run in the East could seriously be over.
Green: The Heat deserve a little bit more credit than what you're giving them, Riley. They’ve been in tough positions before and it’s always better to face an elimination game in your own house. Forget what you've seen out of the Heat in their last two losses to Indiana. They'll be ready for them, and expect a guest appearance from the Wade and Bosh of two postseasons ago. Miami knows if they want to go down as a great team they need at least one more ring. And I don't expect Indiana to trip them up as Miami tries to cap what may be their last run together as a team. With Wade's health fading and salaries edging into expensive territory, Miami can't wait on next season. The urgency is there.