Let's not get carried away with this February victory but a win against the defending champions is great whenever you can get it. After winning against them just a month ago in a game that wasn't really that close, you could be forgiven for thinking that the Heat would be eager for payback and would be too much for the inconsistent, Danny Granger-less Pacers. In fact, the commentators specifically made a note of how switched on and focused the Heat looked before the game, so puh-lease, none of that 'the Heat weren't really trying' business. Let's not kid ourselves. The Heat wanted this one bad.
However, so did David West and the Pacers. The bruising Pacers bigs -- West and Hansbrough in particular -- were too much for height and size challenged Heat. West was in beast mode all night long, pouring in a season-high 30 points to go with 7 rebounds and 5 assists on 12-15 shooting from the field and 6-6 from the line. It was vintage West -- reliable, intelligent, skillful, unstoppable. Hansbrough was by far the most productive player off the bench with 11 points, almost single-handedly carrying the Pacers' second unit in the second quarter.
Paul George's matchup against Lebron was a great one. On paper, Lebron dominated 28-15, but I could have sworn it was a lot closer than that when watching it on the TV. PG24 had some great moments and hit the big buckets when it counted. Not bad against a prime King James.
Lance Stephenson was huge, putting up 15 points and putting the clamps down on Dwyane Wade to "hold" him to 17 points. To be honest, Stephenson wasn't quite as good as the numbers suggested, getting a ton of his passes deflected, turning it over 3 times (though it felt like 10) and setting for a lot of ill-advised jumpers with the shot clock winding down.
Roy Hibbert made a difference on the defensive end, but let's not pretend the big fella is not still struggling very badly. 7 points on 3-8 shooting, 6 rebounds and 2 blocks in 30 minutes. People are trying to defend his play by highlighting his defense, but unless he wins DPOY his max contract is looking worse by the day. You can't be a max player and be this bad at one end of the floor. Sorry, but it's the brutal truth.
In the end, the night still belonged to West.
The Pacers will need to be at their best as they embark on this season's only back-to-back-to-back -- for any team -- thanks to that rescheduled Bulls game that will see the Pacers play three games in three nights. The opponents are pretty nasty too -- Chicago and Atlanta at home and Philly on the road. If the Pacers can win all three I will be very impressed.
But for now, they can savor this win against the Heat. They deserved it.
PS: Sam Young is back! He was released and re-signed. People are pretending it will make a huge difference. I don't think his defense is really that good.
PPS: Granger has participated in his first team practice -- full court play too. And he beat Paul George and George Hill in an after-practice shooting game. Apparently he is in good shape but not yet game shape. They are trying to get him some court time before the All-Star break. That is all.