Eastern Conference Finals Game 2: Can Pacers put on repeat performance?

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In Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals Sunday the Pacers scored 119 points per 100 possessions and absolutely devastated the Heat defense. Indiana played smart pick-and-roll basketball to expose Miami’s poor rotations as the roll man got a lot of good looks in the paint. Indiana moved the ball, hit 8-of-19 shots from three, and made Miami look a step slow all game long. The Pacers were the aggressors, getting to the free throw line 37 times to the Heat’s 15.

It was not at all what anyone expected — the Pacers were built to grind the Heat down, not outscore them. Which begs the real question for Game 2:

Can the Pacers replicate that performance?

Or, was Game 1 a “one off” that will not look like any other game in this series?

We will find out Tuesday night with Game 2 between these teams in Indiana.

First off, expect a much more aggressive Miami defense. In Game 1 the Heat let the Pacers start their sets and get to their spots on the floor with little disruption, that will not be the case this time around. Also, expect much sharper defensive rotations for Miami, particularly off the pick-and-roll. The Pacers roll man continually got the ball in the paint and made plays, expect Miami to defend that with more aggressive play. However, in Game 1 the Pacers hit 8-of-14 from the midrange and 41.2 percent from three, do that again Miami will struggle to stop them.

Expect Udonis Haslem to start and Shane Battier to come off the bench, as the Heat did in the second half of Game 1. Miami needs the size and defense to match up better with Indiana — Roy Hibbert and David West combined for 38 points, 16 rebounds and six assists in Game 1. Don’t expect to see Greg Oden, who coach Eric Spoelstra said after Game 1 was not physically ready to go.

What Miami also needs is someone to play well on offense who is not named LeBron James or Dwyane Wade. We’re looking at you, Chris Bosh. He was 4-of-12 shooting and 0-of-5 from three in Game 1. Miami needs Bosh’s jump shot to pull the Heat bigs out of the paint and create room for LeBron and Wade to drive the lane. Bosh can do that. Also Miami could use more Ray Allen or Mario Chalmers or anyone else who can get hot from three and give them some points.

Indiana still has matchup advantages — mainly Miami doesn’t have a great answer for Roy Hibbert, who had 19 points (9 earned at the free throw line) and 9 rebounds in Game 1. But Hibbert has been anything but consistent these playoffs, posting some zero-zero games as well. He’s had games where he didn’t fight for position, or didn’t get the ball when he did. It begs the question which Roy Hibbert shows up on Tuesday?

It’s really the same question for Paul George and the entire Pacers offense — can they do it in back-to-back games? Because so far in these playoffs (and over the final months of the season) they have often followed a strong performance with a dud. The Pacers have been the very definition of inconsistent, a team Has Miami woken them up? Will the Pacers defense that was built to make life difficult for the Heat continue to thrive on Tuesday night?

Or was Game 1 a one off?

LeBron James’ best play from every game in 2016-17 (VIDEO)

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I’m not sure it’s possible to argue that LeBron James is not the most important player in the NBA, even in 2016-17.

Yes, others have won the MVP award in years past, but each and every postseason you understand just how important LeBron is to every roster he is on. NBA players even voted him as the player they would most secretly want on their team.

That’s why it’s pretty easy to galvanize that opinion when you watch a 20-minute highlight video of LeBron’s best plays from each game of the past season.

Summer is upon us and even preseason seems like a long way off. Thankfully, we will be able to get to see plays like this here in what feels like the near future.

C.J. McCollum’s cab driver had some hilarious opinions on today’s NBA

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I think we’ve all been in the situation that C.J. McCollum found himself in recently.

Whether you are a hardcore NBA fan, a blogger, a professional writer, or a basketball player, when folks interested in the league find out about your passion, they often try to connect with you about it. Which is great! Especially as sometimes you get cats like the one who was driving the Portland Trail Blazers star guard in the video below.

Now, I have to warn you about some NSFW language, but what the guy had to say was pretty great. Hilarious, even.

The topics ranged from superstars being on the same team, to hating the Golden State Warriors, to the future success of the Blazers themselves.

Again, some extremely NSFW language ahead but also some serious laughs to be had.

Via Instagram:

CJ McCollum's drive to the airport was something. 😂 (via @3jmccollum)

A post shared by Sports Videos (@houseofhighlights) on

I’m dying. This guy is the best.

Watch Stephen Curry’s best play from every game last year (VIDEO)

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It was probably damn near impossible to put together at this video.

Stephen Curry, the Golden State Warriors star point guard/human highlight machine, produces enough good content on a given night for multiple highlight videos. Going through and selecting just the best play from each game must have been a difficult challenge.

But here we are.

The NBA published a video to their YouTube channel this week of the single best play from each game of Curry’s 2016-17 season. The result is a 20-minute video that is well worth the watch.

Summer can seem to drag on, but seeing back-to-back plays like this just makes you thirsty for the winter.

James Harden on recruiting Chris Paul from LA: “He didn’t seem happy”

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One of the most interesting storylines of the first month of this upcoming NBA season will be the Houston Rockets.

The team has paired MVP candidate James Harden with one of the greatest point guards of all time in Chris Paul, but it remains to be seen whether the two will be able to work together with the kind of efficiency that Mike D’Antoni’s team had in 2016-17.

Harden has been the subject of some chatter already this offseason after a photo of him surfaced on Instagram. In it, Harden looked to have added a significant portion of muscle this summer, which may help him as he moves back to a more off-ball style of play with Paul in the fold.

Harden was also the subject of significant scrutiny at the end of last season, where he failed in the playoffs in spectacular fashion against the San Antonio Spurs.

In a recent interview with Sam Amick of USA Today, Harden said his newfound weight gain has been part of his plan to combat late-season fatigue. Harden has also introduced yoga and pilates into his workout routine.

Perhaps more interesting information from Harden’s interview with Amick revealed just how much impact he had recruiting Chris Paul in the trade from Los Angeles Clippers, and Paul’s attitude at the end of the season toward his former team.

Via USA Today:

Harden, who signed a four-year extension this summer and will earn a combined $228 million by the end of the 2022-23 season, had everything to do with the move.

“I just knew that in the summertime obviously (Paul) was a free agent, and I wanted to see where his head was,” Harden said of Paul, who will now be a free agent next summer. “He didn’t seem happy, so after that we just took it from there.

“Obviously Golden State has been in the Finals and won two out of three, so that’s what everybody is trying to build up against. But we’re right there. We’re right there. Obviously, we have a lot of work to do, but it definitely puts us in a better chance.”

It certainly makes sense that after years of perpetual playoff failure by the Clippers that Paul would want to move on. Harden and CP3 seem to enjoy each other at the moment, and a pairing does seem to make sense on paper. We will see how that plays out over the course of next season.