After watching the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacer’s first games of the NBA playoffs this year, are the top seeded teams in the East still locks for the Eastern Conference Finals? Both teams ended the regular season winning just 4 of their final 10 games, but will they be able to pick up their play in the postseason.
The Pacers and Heat came into their first round series as the obvious favorites to advance, but their first round opponents have shown that the top seeded teams in the East will need to earn their berth in the second round of the NBA playoffs. The Pacers took on eighth seeded Atlanta in their first game of the postseason and got all they could handle from the underdog Hawks team.
During the regular season, the Pacers home record of 35-6 served as the best home court record in the league. But behind 28 points from Jeff Teague and 25 points of Paul Millsap, the Hawks upset the Pacers 101-93 and handed the boys from Indiana their seventh home loss of the season.
The 28 point 5 assist outburst from Jeff Teague showcased an issue in the Pacers line up that they have had to deal with all season. Indiana does not have a true point guard in their rotation. George Hill starts at the point guard position for the Pacers, but he is known more for his spot up shooting and pick and roll action, rather than his passing ability and defense.
The Pacers will need to contain Teague in game 2 to even this first round series up, but that may be easier said than done. At times Evan Turner guarded Teague in game 1, but a highlight worthy crossover into step-back three-pointer by Teague demonstrated that Turner on Teague is not a favorable match up for the Pacers.
The Pacers spoke all season long about having home court advantage throughout the playoffs, but after just one game they have already lost that advantage to the Hawks. The Pacers will need to get back to the level of play that they were at early in the NBA regular season, which saw them climb to the top of the NBA standings. If the Pacers continue to struggle, they very well may be on the wrong end of a first round upset.
The Miami Heat opened up their postseason at home against the Charlotte Bobcats. Despite getting off to a slow start, as they trailed 23-19 in the first quarter, the Heat regrouped behind LeBron James’ 27 points and held on to fend off the Cats 99-88. While the Heat did struggle to close out the regular season, the two-time defending champs have shown that they are capable of playing at another level in the playoffs.
The main concern for the Heat as they advance deeper into the playoffs will be the team’s health. They have played physical playoff basketball deep into June for the past three seasons, and all those minutes are bound to catch up to the team eventually.
Expect the Heat to get better and better as the NBA playoffs move forward and eventually return to their usual championship level of play. Ever since the trade of Danny Granger the Pacers have struggled to find a consistent rotation on the court. Frank Vogel and the coaching staff will have only a few days to determine what needs to be done to ensure they don’t fall behind 2-0.
Game two between the Pacers and Hawks will take place on Tuesday at 7:00PM EST in Indianapolis, while game two between the Heat and Bobcats will be on Wednesday at 7:00PM EST in South Beach. If the top seeded teams in the East are playing at their highest level, there is no doubt they will advance to the Conference Finals. The only question is whether or not they can reach that level in time.
Commentary By Eric Kummel