Kyle Soppe also writes about the NBA for Pickin’ Splinters. Follow him on Twitter.
“You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone”. The Miami Heat and Los Angeles Clippers are discovering that life without a healthy star is much harder than previously thought. With Chris Bosh sidelined and Chris Paul hobbled, neother team looked comfortable offensively, as both fell on Thursday night.
Heat @ Pacers – Indiana withstands early surge and pulls away in second half for 94-75 victory
MVP: Roy Hibbert
Offense wins games, but defense wins champions. The saying may be cliche, but the focus on defense that Frank Vogel has implemented for his upstart Pacers has caused the Heat all sorts of problems, and has given the Pacers the advantage in the series. Roy Hibbert‘s ability to impact the game on both ends of the floor was a big reason why the Pacers were able to overcome an early hot streak from Miami, where the Heat made 10 consecutive field goals. Hibbert was credited for 5 blocked shots, but altered the attempts of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade much more often than that. Take away the 5 minute stretch where Miami couldn’t miss, and they shot a woeful 27.9% from the floor. For the game, starters not named LeBron James or Mario Chalmers shot 9.1% from the field. No, that’s not a typo.With so many missed shots, rebounding was key for Indiana, and Hibbert bailed them out by grabbing 18 rebounds, only 3 less than the entire starting lineup of the Heat. A game high 5 of those rebounds came on the offensive end, as Hibbert led the Pacers to a 9 point edge on second chance points. Protect the basket against the Heat, and you’ve got a chance: and with Hibbert the most consistent big man in the playoffs, the Pacers figure to give the Heat all they can handle in what should be a long series.
Clippers @ Spurs – San Antonio toys with Los Angeles in dominating 105-88 win
MVP: Boris Diaw
We all know that the Spurs can hurt you with their “Big Three”, but their role players have been equally impressive. Diaw, whose ability to stretch the defense creates holes for the slashing Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, connected on all 7 of his field goal attempts on his way to 16 big points. The point total was Diaw’s best in nearly 4 months, and gives San Antonio another player who is difficult to match up with. He is an excellent passer for a big man, and displayed his ability to find the cutter with 4 assists and only 1 turnover. With Kawhi Leonard and Tim Duncan cleaning the glass, his rebounding isn’t crucial, but he did manage 4 rebounds (2 offensive) against the Clippers. Any game in which Diaw out produces Chris Paul, despite playing 6 less minutes, the Spurs are going to win, it’s just that simple. San Antonio has won 6 straight games this post season, and it is hard to project them losing in the near future.