A while back, I dared to speculate that the Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs had a bit of a “cold war” going on as they were seemingly the two elite franchises in the NBA. That was back in 2005 as the Heat were contending for Eastern Conference titles behind an old Shaquille O’Neal and a young upstart named Dwyane Wade. The Heat eventually had their down run but arose, like a phoenix, after the signing of “Run DLC” in the summer of 2010 adding Lebron James and Chris Bosh to the fold.
The point was, both teams were building their rosters in anticipation of meeting up with the other in the post season. They would only see each other two times during the regular season, being they were both in different conferences.
Now, in 2013, there is a new “cold war” brewing and it is also within their own conference of the East. The Miami Heat are clearly the best of the conference and the two time defending champs are looking to go for a three-peat this year. The question on everyone’s minds is, are the Indiana Pacers now poised to stop them?
Have the Pacers made the transition into one of the NBA’s elite franchises?
If one is to believe the Pacers’ blogs out there, they are not only ready to challenge but should beat the Heat come playoff time. Much was made about Lebron’s comments to Lance Stephenson and his dunk near the end of the game in which the Pacers defeated the Heat on December 10th with about 30 seconds left. The “I’ll remember that” slipped from Lebron’s mouth and the Pacer faithful immediately start pointing out Lebron as some sort of hypocrite.
By request, ICYM Pacers Live Pregame Friday, segment featuring LeBron "I'll remember that one" (1:15 in) http://t.co/PnlTB9XnYZ
— Jeremiah Johnson (@JJFSINDIANA) December 18, 2013
When the two teams met again in Miami on December 18th, Lebron may have remembered Stephenson’s dunk but it wasn’t enough for the Heat to avenge their loss up in Indianapolis as once again, Roy Hibbert dominated the paint and exposed a weakness in the Heat’s matchups against the Pacers.
But the regular season is very different than the post season. The intensity level is different and the fact that both teams see each other several games in a row with no other focus than to beat the opponent in front of them. Which is also why this potential post season showdown is actually compelling and becoming a bit of a cold war.
There was a piece written about the potential impacts of players like Danny Granger and Greg Oden for their respective teams. Granger, if Heat fans can remember, was absent in the series last year and it is an arguable point that the Pacers may have been able to make the leap over the Heat had he been healthy. Granger and Paul George will give the Heat a handful and draw lots of attention on defense that could lead to breakdowns on the perimeter. Given the Heat’s inability to stop Roy Hibbert already, that could lead to a series-long set of problems.
The Heat, via Pat Riley, must have recognized this and in their continuing pursuit of perfection went after Greg Oden with a bit more urgency than most would regard. Sure, it is a low-risk, high-reward move that could potentially have the former #1 pick overall playing defense for you at center, but it could also be a way for the Heat to nullify the effects of Roy Hibbert on your team’s interior defense. And in both of these 2013 matchups with the Pacers, the Hibbert factor still remains a problem for the Heat.
Both of these moves were ultimately done to get their teams a chance to represent the East in the NBA Finals. The Pacers, despite what kind of shruggery comes out of their locker room about their concerns over the Heat know deep down their road to a potential championship runs through Miami. The Heat may not be convinced that their chance for a third title in a row runs through the Gold Swagger crowd, but they certainly aren’t taking anything for granted. The Cold War is on and the barbs are being tossed back and forth. Now the question remains, is this now considered a rivalry?