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Lebron James drives against Danny Granger in Game One of the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
The Indiana Pacers are not the New York Knicks. Whereas the Knicks seemed to have their first-round playoff series against the Heat lost after just one game, no one expects the Pacers to wilt in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. The 9-point differential in the final boxscore masks the fact that Indiana led for a significant portion of Game 1.
Indiana's ability to test the Heat will be magnified now that Chris Bosh is expected to miss the rest of the series. All of a sudden, Pacers center Roy Hibbert will have lesser defenders covering him. Additionally, he will not have to cover as much ground on defense, since none of Miami's other big men have anywhere near the shooting range of Bosh.
On Monday, Pacers coach Frank Vogel did not suggest that his team is at an advantage with Bosh in street clothes. "They've got great players they can fill in for him," he said. "They've got different lineups that are sometimes more effective than the lineup with Bosh. Obviously, not having to worry about Bosh helps because he's such a terrific player."
Miami caught a huge break on Sunday when Hibbert got into foul trouble early. Vogel limited him to under 30 minutes of playing time for fear of Hibbert fouling out of the game. The Heat might try to pull off that trick a second time in Game 2 by attacking the paint with Dwyane Wade and LeBron James early in an effort to draw fouls.
But if that does not work, reserve centers Joel Anthony and Ronny Turiaf face the unenviable task of slowing down Hibbert, who averaged 13 points and 9 rebounds per game in the regular season. His size advantage allows him to back down defenders in the post (Hibbert stands 7'2" - Anthony and Turiaf are each 6'10").
But even if Hibbert has a breakout game, the Pacers will need to give him help. As a team, Indiana shot just 40% from the field on Sunday, including 4 of 17 from three-point range. Top scorer Danny Granger was an abysmal 1 of 10 on the day.
Speaking of cold streaks, Miami's Udonis Haslem is shooting just 7 of 22 in the playoffs. Haslem said Monday James and Wade "will pick up the scoring load" in Bosh's absence. Even so, Miami will want Haslem to make a few long range jumpers early on Tuesday to keep Indiana's defense honest.
Miami has yet to lose a home game in four tries in the playoffs, but with Bosh sidelined Miami's toughest test will come on Tuesday. How they respond could go a long way towards reassuring Heat fans that Bosh's injury will not doom their hopes at an NBA title.