With the conclusion of last night’s game, there are officially single digit games left in the 2012-13 NBA season. That’s bad. There is still at least one more game left in this Eastern Conference Finals though. That’s good. Let’s hit the Lion Faces and Lemon Faces from last night.
Lion Face: LeBron Raymone James
What else is there to say? At some point, we’re going to need to start picking random letters out of a Scrabble box and making up new words to describe what LeBron can do out on the basketball court because the current list of superlatives is running thin. Does anyone even bat an eyelash anymore at 30 points, 8 rebounds, and 6 assists in 45 minutes of action anymore? His third quarter performance in particular was everything you could possibly want out of James. Not only did he single handedly outscore the entire Pacers team 16-13, but at one point either scored or assisted on 20 straight points for Miami. During this stretch, the Heat turned a 46-41 deficit into a 61-55 lead, a lead that they would not relinquish the rest of the way. After making the Finals just once in his first seven years in the league, James finds himself on the cusp of a third straight trip to the championship series.
Lemon Face: Chris Bosh
Bosh turned in another performance where it was hard to remember him doing anything of note while on the floor. Bosh pulled down a series high 5 rebounds tonight giving him a grand total of 18 boards in 5 games. Eighteen. One eight. There were 124 instances of a player recording 18 rebounds in a single game this year, regular season and playoffs. For the $17,545,000 that Bosh is making this season, one would hope that the near seven-footer would be able to stuff the stat sheet more than he has recently. Instead, Bosh turned in his second consecutive game of 7 points and 5 rebounds or fewer. LeBron left Cleveland to avoid having to carry the load night in and night out. Somehow, I don’t think that this is what he was envisioning.
Lion Face: Udonis Haslem
Surely I’m not the only one who would play Goldeneye 007 on the N64, set the multiplayer weapon as Remote Mines, find a random corner in the level, and throw 50 mines on top of one another to see how high or long I could stack them, right? I only ask this because I am 87% sure that Udonis Haslem was trying to replicate that strategy with his shots tonight. Haslem made his living both at the rim and along the left baseline converting 8 of his 9 shots on the night and pouring in 16 points. It was a near mirror image of Game 3 when he also went 8-9 from the field in a 17 point effort. Haslem has emerged as somewhat of a barometer for the Heat in this series. When playing like he did last night and in Game 3, the Heat have a pair of double digit victories. However, in the Heat’s two losses in the series, Haslem has just 7 points combined. As long as Bosh and Dwyane Wade continue to be virtual no shows in the series, someone on the Heat is going to need to step up in one of the next two games if Miami wants to put Indiana away for good.
Lion Face: Roy Hibbert, Paul George, David West
If you had said before the series that the Pacers would have three of the best four players in the Eastern Conference Finals, it’s not so much that you would have been laughed out of the room, but surely not even you could foresee the trio of Hibbert, George, and West providing this strong of a case proving you correct. Hibbert and George opened up tonight by scoring the Pacers first 29 points of the game. Eventually, the duo would go on to finish with 49 points between them. With West chipping in 17 points of his own, the Pacers generated 83.5% of their offense from just those three players. It’s no secret that the Pacers heavily rely on their starting five man unit more than practically any team in the league. When they are clicking on all cylinders, that lineup provides a balanced scoring attack which we saw in Games 2 and 4 when all five starters scored in double figures. Without that balance, Indiana is dead to rights as they were tonight.
Lemon Face: Lance Stephenson and George Hill
It was extremely tempting to just make this “literally everyone else on the Pacers,” but Stephenson and Hill were particularly brutal as a starting backcourt combination tonight. Their numbers are only barely suitable for work: 5 points, 3 rebounds, 6 assists, 6 turnovers, 10 fouls, all on a combined 2-11 shooting from the floor. The Pacers can survive a subpar performance from one of their guards provided its Big 3 of Hibbert, George, and West are sharing the load, but Indiana doesn’t stand a chance if both of them are going to play this poorly.
Lemon Face: Pacers fans convinced there is a conspiracy against them
Look, I live in Indianapolis. I am a Cavs fans still mildly bitter over LeBron James leaving Cleveland. There are few things that would make me happier than seeing the Pacers pull off the unthinkable upset and move on to The Finals. Unfortunately, a certain contingent of Pacers fans are making it extremely, frustratingly difficult to cheer for Indiana when seemingly every single whistle that goes against Indiana is part of a grand conspiracy to get Miami into the Finals. Should Chris Andersen have been ejected for this performance in the second quarter?
Yes, and I’m willing to bet 99% of unbiased observers of the game plus a majority of even the most hardcore Heat fans would agree that Andersen should have been tossed. For some inexplicable reason, Andersen was assess a Flagrant 1 and allowed to stay in the game where he put Miami on his back and went on to dominate the rest of the game. Actually, in reality he scored 2 points, pulled down 4 rebounds, and was largely quiet for the duration of the contest. Most likely, the call will be reviewed by the league office tomorrow and Andersen will be suspended for Game 6 on Saturday in Indiana. Since Andersen wasn’t exactly a difference maker tonight and the game ended up being a double digit win, the Pacers, in the end, may actually prefer this scenario to the alternative of Andersen being ejected last night.
On a larger scale, the most controversial calls of the season have come down to a “Technically It Was A Foul But If We’re Going To Start Calling That Then NBA Games Are Going To Be 6 Hours Long” moving screen to foul out LeBron in Game 4, a traveling call on Dwyane Wade (which wasn’t actually a travel) shortly thereafter, and a blown 24 second call violation against the Pacers, also in Game 4 – a game in which Indiana won. Not that there is an easy sport to referee out there, but basketball in particular is an extremely difficult sport due to the constant nature of instantaneous calls that need to be made. Referees are going to miss calls at times; sometimes they go against your team, sometimes they are in favor of your team. As fun as a conspiracy theory is to discuss, occasionally the wrong calls are made and that’s it. Too often, fans confuse conspiracy with either incompetence or simply a mistake. And besides, when you turn the ball over 17 times, have your entire team outside of your three best players combine for a grand total of 13 points, miss 18 shots around the rim, and get outscored in the third quarter 30-13 without the refs having much of an influence, you pretty much forfeit all rights to complain about the officiating.