The Eastern Conference Finals has been predetermined since the opening tip-off of the NBA season. The Indiana Pacers versus the Miami Heat. Point, blank, period.
Barring a major setback, this predestined matchup will come into fruition. However, that doesn’t mean the two heavyweights won’t endure their share of season stumbles. Both teams are in the midst struggles as their two major components have faltered lately.
With the Pacers, their once impenetrable defense has been reduced to wet tissue in recent weeks. For Miami, ever since LeBron James’ shooting clinic scoring 61 points on 22 made fields goals, he has fallen into a seemingly unshakeable slump. Indiana is currently on a four game losing streak and Miami is on a three game slide. The Pacers have one game and a half lead on Miami, but neither team is seizing the opportunity to gain control of the top seed with their recent struggles.
Indiana leads the NBA in points allowed giving up only 92 points game. On their current losing streak, they have given up 424 points in four games, that’s an average of 106 points over that stretch. The worst lost of the last four losses was against the Charlotte Bobcats who scored 109 points on the Pacers. Charlotte came into the game ranked 26th in point per game at 95.4. Indiana depends on its defensive prowess, especially with 7-footer Roy Hibbert in the middle, but his play on both sides of the ball has been pedestrian as of late. They are not a high scoring team. If they keep up with their losing ways, they are practically handing the No. 1 seed over to Miami. They need home court advantage in a seven games series against the Heat. Without it, they can kiss the Finals goodbye.
But Miami doesn’t seem to want the top seed either.
And honestly, a large part of the blame falls on LeBron.
The sports world was treated to an unconscious performance by King James as he connected on eight 3-pointers in a row, shot 22 of 33 from the field, 9-12 from the free throw line and 66 percent from the field scoring a career-high 61 points against the Bobcats a week ago.
After that game, LeBron said It felt like I had a golf ball, throwing it into the ocean. On Miami’s three game losing streak, it looks like LeBron is throwing a beach ball into golf hole. Since his 61-point game, LeBron is shooting 39 percent from the field. His season average is 58 percent. Outside the paint, he is averaging a pitiful 11 percent. His season average for scoring outside the paint is 38 percent.
Make no mistake, LeBron is the best player on the planet, but he is the main cause of the Heat’s losing streak. His game has never been predicated on knocking down outside shots. When dared to shoot by opposing teams who heckle him saying he can’t shoot, he’ll knock ‘em down. But not now.
LeBron is still living in the moment of his 61-point clinic. It’s time he snaps out of that daze. He even stooped so low as to blame his shooting woes on the half sleeved jerseys. Really? Really, LeBron?
Regardless, Miami is playing catch up for the rest of the season as the Pacers have 19 games left to Miams’s 22. I don’t believe either team could beat the other on its home court in a game 7. Capturing the No. 1 seed in the East is vital for both teams.
Few NFL Quick Hits
The words “inquired” and “interest” are on the verge of being banned as they have loosely been tossed around in recent weeks as free agency period has begun.
Former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback has been linked to the New York Jets. That would be a great move by the Jets if they sign him. The Jets are not too far off from a being a playoff team. They have a stellar defense and run game. All they are lacking is a top wide receiver and consistency from the quarterback position. After sitting through four miserable years behind Mark Sanchez, I’d imagine Geno Smith is on a short leash after just his rookie season throwing 21 interceptions. Vick would turn the Jets into a playoff team in one season.
The 26 yeold free agent wide receiver Hakeem Nicks said he’d be a dangerous weapon playing alongside Andrew Luck (Indianapolis Colts), Cam Newton (Carolina Panthers) or Philip Rivers (San Diego Chargers). In short, he wants to play for a contender and prove he’s one of the top receivers in the league again.
From a talent perspective, he is among the top receivers. Nicks has strong hands, physical, one of the best receivers when it comes to catching the ball in traffic and just plucks it right out the air. He is a legitimate No. 1 receiver when he’s on the field, but that’s the problem. Nicks has never played a full 16 game season in his career. Availability is just as important as ability. No use of having all that talent is you can’t put it on the filed.
Yet still, wouldn’t mind seeing Nicks paired with Luck.
While Nicks is looking to extend his football career at a young age, another player is calling it quits at a young age. Rashard Mendenhall is retiring at the age of 26. The former first-round running back from Illinois played for the Pittsburgh Steelers for the bulk of his career before playing his last season for the Arizona Cardinals. He battled a series of injuries the past three years. Here is why he retired at 26.