Those of you who watched the Eastern Conference Finals in the 2013 NBA Playoffs remember the exciting duel between the Miami Heat and the Indiana Pacers. For the first time, we witnessed the King struggle in the presence of lockdown defender and emerging superstar, Paul George. After the Heat narrowly escaped elimination in Game 6 by Ray Allen's three-ball, they were victorious in Game 7, cutting the Pacers' playoff run short. Well, after the discouraging loss, the Pacers are back and better than ever. Nearing the 2014 Playoffs, the Pacers have an even greater opportunity to extinguish the Heat and enter the Finals.
First of all, from a statistical standpoint, Pacers are the first seed and have the best record in the NBA in the 2014 season so far with a record of 44-13 and a win-to-loss percentage of .772. If this trend is maintained, the franchise will experience a 11.7 percent increase from last season. Although there are still many games left in the 2013-2014 season, the Miami Heat have a record of 41-14 with a win-to-loss percentage of .745. Because of the likelihood of change in the remaining season games, these statistics cannot hold too much weight yet but the future looks bright for this young roster.
The Pacers acquired this Argentinian post player from the Phoenix Suns for Gerald Green, Miles Plumlee, and a future first round draft pick. Scola's experienced offensive game and fundamentals can fill the holes in this primarily defensive-first team. Come playoff time, Scola can provide key minutes off the bench to rest starting forward, David West.
The Pacers acquired Evan Turner through a trade involving Turner and Lavoy Allen from the Philadelphia 76ers for Danny Granger and a second round draft pick. This decision is up in the air--who knows how Turner, a 6'7 guard picked second in the 2010 draft, will adjust on a top contending team. What is most certain is Turner's outstanding potential and scoring ability which was demonstrated earlier in the 76er's 2013-14 season. A trade involving Danny Granger was a smart decision. Danny Granger, once the heart of the Pacers team, was not producing as expected due to injuries and the emergence of stars Paul George and Lance Stephenson. Heading into the post-season, it was imperative that Indiana release some deadweight and invest in some new talent.
The Emergence of Lance Stephenson
This 6'5 guard from Brooklyn proves to be a tenacious defender, a clutch interior scorer, and the sparkplug of the Pacers lineup. Drafted at a low 40th pick in the 2010 NBA draft, Stephenson emerged as an all-star caliber player this year, putting up 14.4 points, 5.2 assists, and 7.4 rebounds per game. His contribution will definitely make the greatest difference from last year's playoff run. With the acquisition of Evan Turner, we'll see if Stephenson's playing time will be affected.
With the right tools, who knows what the Pacers can accomplish this upcoming post-season. Will they eliminate Miami's opportunity for a three-peat? If Paul George continues his super star leadership and Roy Hibbert dominates the post, their chances are great. Huge minutes from Lance Stephenson and a few bench contributors will make the difference come the Miami-Pacers matchup of 2014. Who do you pick to win it all?