1. Will the Heat close it out today? Or will we have to wait for a Game 7?
Kris: I picked the Heat to win this series in 6 games, and I’m going to stick with that. Even though this Pacers team is a different beast compared to last year’s Indiana team, Miami was able to close the series with a Game 6 win in Indiana last year. The precedent is there, the Heat just have to execute.
Ehsan: Yes, the Heat will finally close out this gruesome and tough series tonight. I think the Heat will take the same mentality they had last year in Game 5 and not want to give the Pacers any extra lives. This Pacers team has already proven they can steal a game in Miami — something the Heat do not want any chance of happening again. Plus, Lebron James has been amazing in close-out games since he came to Miami.
Eric: I predicted the Miami Heat to win in 5 games, so I definitely think the Heat will close this series tonight even if they are on the road. This has been an extremely hard-fought series, but the Heat are the more talented, and deeper squad. I’m looking for LeBron to have a huge game — scoring at least 30 points, grabbing nine rebounds and eight assists.
2. Do the Pacers even have a chance in this series?
Kris: The Pacers have more than a chance, as they could easily be up 3-2, save for LeBron’s heroics in Game 1. The Pacers are tough and exploit their mismatches well. Their chances of winning Game 6 hinge on how the backcourt of George Hill, Lance Stephenson, and DJ Augustin perform.
Ehsan: Yes and no. I have written the Pacer off this entire series and do not want to do that now. They are fully capable of taking Game 6 at home and forcing this series to go to a Game 7. The issue with the Heat in this series has been the their reliance on Haslem or Chalmers (when they don’t have good games, the Heat don’t have good games) and the unreliability of Wade and Bosh, who haven’t been able to get anything going offensively in the playoffs (more on that later).
Eric: The Pacers have a chance at making this series competitive — which they have already done. I still think they are another scorer away from really threatening the Miami Heat. But even if they get lucky and win Game 6, there’s no way they win a Game 7 in South Beach.
3. What effect do you think Chris Andersen’s suspension will have on Game 6?
Kris: Chris Andersen’s suspension could have a pretty big impact, especially if Haslem and Bosh aren’t hitting shots. Andersen hasn’t really defended Roy Hibbert well, so he might not be a huge loss on the defensive end, but his 100% field goal percentage will definitely be missed.
Ehsan: Anderson’s energy and hustle was a huge plus for Miami in the first three games, although the Birdman’s impact has been less obvious the previous two games. I believe Joel Anthony is a better on-ball defender for the Heat, especially when guarding Hibbert, but Anthony is such a non-threat offensively that playing Anthony would allow the Pacers to essentially double Lebron and ignore Anthony. While Anderson has been great, Wade or Bosh having a big game would more than negate what the Heat lose with Andersen out.
Eric: Chris Anderson was extremely lucky he wasn’t ejected in Game 5, considering how similar his shove was with Nazr Mohammed’s ejection during the Heat – Bulls series. Ironically, last year Udonis Haslem was suspended in game 6 for a hard foul against Tyler Hansbrough. However, I was still surprised Anderson was suspended. Anderson has been on fire this postseason and I hope this one game suspension doesn’t affect when he comes back, like when J.R. Smith struggled after he was suspended. I will look for Udonis Haslem to have another big game and hopefully Joel Anthony can get a few rebounds and defend the rim.
4. Why do you think Miami’s shooters have not shot well? Is it because of Indiana’s defense or are they just on a cold streak?
Kris: I think it’s just way things are at the moment. The shooters on the Heat are old so tired legs could be the culprit. But I think it’s basically just a slump. Also, Indiana’s defense is predicated on clogging up the paint, which means the Heat should have ample opportunities from 3 when LeBron and Wade attack the rim.
Ehsan: It might be a combination of both. The Heat have had some wide open looks that they have not knocked down, but on other looks the Pacers have closed out well enough to make sure the Heat cannot get a shot off. Shane Battier is ice cold and I have no idea why Coach Spo has not turned more to Mike Miller. If Battier is not knocking his shots down, he provides little else on offense.
Eric: Miami’s perimeter shooters have noticeably struggled throughout this series, but I’m not too concerned. They are getting decent looks at the basket, so I don’t think Indiana deserves all the credit for the obvious cold streak, but I think it may be time for Shane Battier and Ray Allen to heat up in this upcoming game.
5. What’s going on with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh? How come they haven’t shown up at all?
Kris: Wade is hurt, and there’s no way around it. I think he fears exacerbating his injury so he plays it safe on both the offensive and defensive ends of the game. He also doesn’t seems to trust his jump shot either. As for Bosh, he is simply physically overwhelmed by Roy Hibbert and David West and the Indiana’s big men have destroyed his offensive rhythm. He absolutely has to give all his effort tonight defensively to keep Hibbert/West off the offensive glass.
Ehsan: Dwyane Wade is clearly suffering from his well-documented knee injury. It’s become apparent as this series (and the playoffs) wear on that he’s not the same – he’s some of his explosiveness. He has still done a decent job defensively and is giving maximal effort, but he’s a ghost of the player he once was. Watching this Wade is really sad; I want to see nothing more than him succeed, but its apparent his knees are bothering him.
As for Bosh, he has hurt his knee and ankle, which obviously doesn’t help, but he was not being aggressive before those injuries and that is what is killing the Heat when he gets offensive touches. If he starts being more of a leader offensively, he can either take Hibbert out of the game by getting Hibbert into foul trouble via blowing by Hibbert (Bosh is much more agile than Roy) or cause Hibbert to stay out of the lane by hitting perimeter jump shots.
Eric: I know Dwyane Wade is still injured. We all can hope that he can just hang on for two more series before he his inevitable offseason knee surgeries. Chris Bosh is due for a good game and tonight may be that game. Bosh, unselfishly, needs to demand more touches and hopefully Spoesltra can run some early sets for him, to get him going. Bosh is only averaging 12.6 points in this series and for the first time since his rookie campaign, was held to single-digit points in back-to-back games.
6. One bold prediction for tonight’s game.
Kris: Shane Battier and Ray Allen find their 3 point strokes to open up the offense for Wade and Bosh to be what we know them to be.
Ehsan: The Miami Heat, led by Lebron James, are able to close out the Pacers. Lebron will finish with 30-12-8 and the Heat will win 105-89.
Eric: Miami Heat will find a way to close it out tonight. Heat win 102-91.