West's touchdown pass to Green didn't shock me . It was just...
Nothing to Lose
Shortly after the Pacers waltzed past the Nets on Sunday afternoon, Mike Wells tweeted this:
It’s a clear allusion that after playing three cupcakes and one team crippled by injuries, the Pacers will face a good team for the first time in the Frank Vogel era. (Does four games count as an era?) The Heat – being the Heat – would provide a measuring stick for how far this team has come.
Actually, no. At least not in terms of wins, losses, or margin.
Tuesday night’s game in Miami is what I would call an “extra credit” game. It’s a no-lose situation. A win would be as wonderful as it is unlikely, but almost any kind of loss would carry little to no meaning at all.
Think of this as the other side of the coin from games like the one in Cleveland last Wednesday. That game was really a no-win situation. If you win, well, so what? It’s the Cavs. If you lose, then it’s a complete debacle.
It’s worth noting that in the clip from Rocky II that Vogel showed the Pacers the other night, Duke said he saw Apollo “beat that man like I never saw no man get beat before.” Considering what happened the last time these two teams met, Indiana won’t sneak up on Miami. It’s not like the Heat have circled this game on their calendar – they have bigger fish to fry – but they probably won’t be looking past a game they might ordinarily have taken for granted in the NBA dog days of February.
So, a beating may be forthcoming.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that the Pacers have no hope, or should just mail it in. Effort is always important, and the comportment of this team may be even more crucial at this juncture of their development.
This team has – to this point – displayed a psyche that is far too volatile, perhaps even too vulnerable to make me comfortable. They get way too high during good times, and way, way too low when things get tough. There’s no question that some of this was driven by problems related to Jim O’Brien, but some of it is intrinsic to the players themselves. How much of each is yet to be determined.
For all of these reasons, I am thoroughly unconcerned about the final score of the game in Miami Tuesday night. The Heat are +10.4 in point differential on their home floor, second only to San Antonio. A blowout loss could be indicative of nothing more than the fact that the Heat are just that much better than the Pacers are right now.
To me, the real test comes in the next six games. Can they notch the “should” wins at home this week against Charlotte and Minnesota? Can they break the spell the Bucks have had over them? Can they go toe-to-toe with Miami next Tuesday and prove they can play with anyone on their home floor? Can they make the most of winnable opportunities on the road at Detroit and Washington?
Can they prove that they are a different team?
In some ways, failure tonight – though I’m certainly not pulling for it - will bring a better opportunity to understand who this team is than success might.
And should that failure come, coach Frank Vogel might be well served to show his players this clip from Deadwood. (Warning – contains some strong language.)