At the top of this post was supposed to be the YouTube clip of Paul George dunking on Birdman in what is undeniably dunk of the playoffs so far. But JT beat me to it. Guess that kind of sums up the significance of that moment, that we couldn’t wait to put it on our front page, that I couldn’t help but Tweet “whoa whoa whoa!!” when I saw it live. Reggie Miller said we are watching a superstar in the making, and after that play, after that game, I’m inclined to agree.

Game 2 proved that game 1 wasn’t a fluke, and proved that the Pacers can hang with the defending champs. It also proved that Miami-Indiana might just turn out to be one of the all-time classic playoff series, which is interesting.

I say interesting because there are a few sub-plots starting to build which weren’t on our radar just a few days ago. The biggest being Paul George vs LeBron James. Just typing that seems silly (typing anyone “vs LeBron James” has felt silly for the last two years). But now it’s kind of a thing, right? George doesn’t have the same impact on the game as LeBron, don’t get me wrong, but he does have two things going for him: 1) Fearlessness and 2) Unbelievable talent. He’s putting those two ingredients together on the big stage, against the game’s best player, and it’s mouth-watering to watch.

Along with George, the Pacers still have the undeniable edge down low. West and Hibbert are dominating the Heat’s small interior defense, and I honestly don’t think there is any sign of that letting up. That is not Indiana exploiting a Heat weakness – that is just Indiana playing their normal game. It is completely sustainable. One-through-five they look more balanced than the Heat, and I loved Paul George’s comment today: “Take nothing away from their Big Three, what they have going. But we’ll take a big five any day. That’s what we have”.

So, do I think the Pacers can win the series?

Ummmmm.

No.

For a couple of reasons. One, their bench offense cannot continue to stink this badly. With the exception of a fluke Birdman Game 1 (he will not go 7-7 again), the Heat bench has scored just 28 points across Games 1 and 2. For a team with so many big-game bench contributions in last year’s playoffs, that can’t and won’t continue. Shane Battier is 0-6 from three, even Ray Allen is 1-6 from three in this series. These guys are consummate professionals and will find a way to get going, and Miami only needs one of those guys firing to spread the floor and change a game, change the series. It will happen.

Two, LeBron still has another gear. I know it’s hard to believe, but you could see it today in Game 2. When George was challenging him, LeBron raised his game. Yeah he turned it over twice, late, but I’ll take 36-8-3-3 on 14-20 shooting any day of the week. And on George, don’t think LeBron doesn’t recognise what’s going on here. Don’t think LeBron doesn’t want to make a statement in Game 3, that this guy isn’t even on my planet. Because he isn’t. I’ve seen it countless times before. Great players being challenged, losing tough games, and then coming back to remind us why they’re so great. I can’t imagine LeBron NOT doing this.

I’m in the camp (a minority it seems) that thinks Bron needs to be even more aggressive than he is right now. I can’t question his efficiency, but he’s only taken 24 and 20 shots in the last two games respectively. He has to take over more of the offense. Ray Allen and Norris Cole shot 2-12 in Game 2 – if I’m Bron I’m taking 4-5 shots away from those guys in Game 3 for myself. If I’m shooting 65% from the field and no one can stop me, why the hell not?

Look, I love LeBron for his unselfishness. But some of his greatest games have come when he simply wanted to dominate from start to finish (see Game 6 vs Celtics last year). I love those LeBron games, and right now, Miami needs one (or two or three) of those LeBron games. Because if that LeBron doesn’t show up, it’s going to be a long series.

And God knows how good Paul George will be by then.


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