In a game that saw Lebron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh play roughly 4 minutes more than their season average, the playoff game-type feel was apparent. Although Miami shied away from the idea that this game was more than just another regular season game, the Pacers did not. The Pacers won 90-84 but in the days leading up to this game, the Pacers made it apparent the significance of playing the Heat. The Pacers feel that every game could mean the difference between playing a game 7 in Miami or Indianapolis. It appeared that the Heat would have the early laugh in the series of 4 regular season matchups that sees them play in little over a week in Miami.
At the game’s midway point, the Pacers went into the locker room down 7. Paul George had scored a mere two points and the Pacers struggled with turnovers that had put them in a hole. It seemed that the Pacers may have overplayed the moment and an off night coming off a 6 six game western conference road trip was at hand. But unlike years past, this years Pacers team regrouped and came out firing in the 2nd half. “I knew it was the kind of night it was going to be then,” George said. “At that point I knew I just had to run him. I couldn’t allow him to load up on me”.
The 2nd half saw the Pacers limit the turnovers that had put them in an early hole. Lebron began to tire and had to be switched off of Paul George, freeing him to score the 15 of his 17 points in the game. And in one swift possession, the difference between last year and this year in this rivalry was apparent. Newly acquired point guard CJ Watson had stolen the ball, raced up the court and put a beautiful move on Norris Cole before finishing at the rim. CJ Watson has quickly made DJ Augustine the most forgotten backup point guard in Pacers history. Louis Scola, also acquired in the off-season, showed a mid-range jump shot and low-post moves that had been lacking with Tyler Hansbourgh. Indiana’s upgraded bench will be the key the rest of the way.
Roy Hibbert returned back to his playoff form that he showed against Miami last season in the playoffs, finishing with 24 points and altering plenty of shots at the rim that have made him a prime candidate for defensive player of the year. “When they go big-big instead of small-big with Bosh and the Duke guy — what’s his name? oh, Shane Battier — it allowed me to roam free a little bit,” Hibbert said. “We always stay big and we make teams adjust to us.” Hibbert is forgetting players on the Heat, and soon the Heat’s dream of a championship may be forgotten as well.
As December falls upon us and teams begin to make plans for either the off-season or post-season, the Indianapolis Colts find themselves atop their division but with plenty of concerns. The trend of starting slow has been a troublesome one that has been with this team since Reggie Wayne went down in October. So what do the Colts need to do fix some of their woes? The answer isn’t so simple. For one, the Colts need to get back to running the ball, and sticking with it. While majority of the media and fans have been against the notion of the Colts being a run-heavy offense, I have been in favor of it. I believe that it takes pressure off Andrew Luck and helps his receivers get better separation off of play-action plays. And with how the Colts offensive line has played this season, Luck needs help any way he can get it at this point. Especially considering that the Titans were able to sack Luck 5 times and pressure him even more. Teams that win the Super Bowl have been able to run the ball in the post-season successfully, even if they haven’t been able to do so in the regular season.
So running the ball is one key. The second is benching and starting certain players in place of the others. The Colts made some moves this past week against the Titans in benching Trent Richardson for Donald Brown, which is what the Colts HAD to do at this point. For the record, I have been one of the biggest proponents in having patience with Trent Richardson but even I have seen enough to see it was time for a change. The Colts have not given up on Richardson and they hope that a full off-season will help him be the player that they spent a 1st rounder on.
Other players got benched but outside of Cassius Vaughn stepping up with a pair of interceptions, the difference was negligible. What needs to happen in terms of players being benched is having Darrius-Heyward Bey dropped in place of undrafted rookie DaRick’ Rogers. Rogers has all the measurables to be a top-flight receiver but didn’t get drafted due to off the field issues that appear for the moment, to be behind him. He can’t be any worse than DHB has been to this point. Samson Satelle also needs to be benched. Lastly, Pep Hamilton needs to step up his play calling and not try to get too cute. Calling a reverse on a 1st down in Tennessee territory is definitely an aggressive call but is certainly not a timely one. I wouldn’t mind seeing that type of call early in the game but at that point in the game where you must capitalize off of a turnover, you go to plays that work for you. The point has come in the season where the Colts must get things back on track if they are to avoid an early playoff exit.