Doppleganger Pacers

New Hickory.jpg

I've been having a hard time this fall. Don't worry, it's nothing serious. My NBA league pass hasn't been working so I've been unable to watch any Pacers games this season. It's been hard, but I get all the latest recaps and updates from my ESPN Sports Center App and on the weekly Pacers podcast, The Undebeatables. 

Since last Friday's game against the Heat was aired on ESPN and I pay for a cable subscription*, I have access to the Watch ESPN app. I heated up some leftover Thai, popped open a beer, turned on my Roku and watched my boys in blue and gold go up against the Miami Heat. 

So imagine my surprise when instead of my beloved Pacers playing against the Heat, a team dressed in Red and Gold with the word "Hickory" on their chests was instead on the court? Where were my beloved Pacers? A team, with just "Hickory" on their uniforms, seemed to have taken the place of the entire Pacers squad. 

Now, at first I was obviously disappointed. But, I must say, the boys from Hickory played very well. And in many ways bore a striking resemblance to the Pacersnot just in appearances but also in playing styles. 

Hickory beat the Miami Heat, which for some reason, the Pacers were able to take credit for that win, so thanks guys! 

*Don't fact check this

From Brooklyn to LA

The Pacers season has started, and I am reminded once again that Lance Stephenson is no longer with us. 

Lance had a decent spurt on the Pacers Squad, making it to the Eastern Conference Finals two years in a row. Born in Coney Island, Brooklyn, he has ridden the famed Cyclone Roller Coaster no less than five times each year since he was born. (Don't fact check this). Lance left Indiana for Charlotte last year, and did not have a great time. 

Lance is what some would call a "difficult" player. Stephen A Smith called him an "x factor" because you don't know what to expect from him, but Stephen A Smith has also said many dumb things, such as "women provoke violence", and many, other, idiotic things, so not sure if we should listen to him. But Lance is emotional, and maybe that's why I liked him. Like him. 

Lance is playing for the Clippers this year, a team I love, but that many people seem to hate. I love them because Billy Crystal loves them, because for years they were the underdogs of L.A., and Blake Griffin was adorable on Sesame Street. Earlier this week on Instagram, Lance posted a photo of himself outside the Barclays Center, home of the Brooklyn Nets, The New York Islanders, and a personal day care for Blue Ivy (again, don't fact check this), with the headline "From Brooklyn to LA". 

I wondered what Lance was doing there. If he was really on his way to LA, it would be weird to stop on his commute there and take a picture at the Barclays Center. The Atlantic Ave/Barclays Center is a subway hub that connects to nine trains and the Long Island Rail Road System. Now if Lance is flying to LA, which would make sense, LaGuardia is in Queens, and the JFK International Airport is in Brooklyn. I'm assuming he would fly out of JFK, as LaGuardia is a hot pile of garbage. But maybe he was at Atlantic Ave/Barclays because he was transferring to LIRR to take the train out to JFK. I'm just very confused as to what his route was to get from his home in Coney Island to the airpot. Can't imagine he was taking the D from Coney Island, to transfer to the 3 to Penn Station to then take a train to the Newark Airport. Seems too complex. And not at all a convenient option for a man who can afford convenience. 

If it was just to show a representation of Brooklyn, and where you're from and where you're going...come on man, you're from CONEY ISLAND. Take a picture there. 

In any case, very excited for this Pacers Season and the return of Paul George, but will forever wonder what brought Lance to Barclays Center on his way to Los Angeles. 

The Bartender Continuing To Mix Up Crappy Playoff Predictions

First, I thought I'd give Pacer Nation an update on the Undebeatables' playoff predictions. Per the Good Doctor in Episode 59, the boys are competing with their picks. One point is awarded for picking the series winner correctly and an additional point is awarded for picking that series winner in the right amount of games. (24 possible points.)

Through the first two rounds, these are the results:

Joey-8

Harper-10

JT-12

Coalson-14

I only mention this because I'm in the lead and I feel it's important for Pacer Nation to have all the facts before they use our predictions for legal gambling purposes. Without further ado...

Eastern Conference Finals

#1 Indiana Pacers vs #2 Miami Heat 

Key Matchup: I wrote a ridiculously long preview of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Heat last year. Almost everything remains true. The rosters are largely the same. And I am of the mind that the Pacers are where they hoped to be all season and all the lack of the focus will fade away in this upcoming series. Even with a determined effort, beating the heat will be no easy task. I'm going to say the Key Matchup here is the bench vs themselves. The bench has been inconsistent to say the least, with the exception of perhaps Ian Mahimni. Cj, Luis, and Evan have all had moments, but flashes of good play won't be enough against the Heat. Yes, the Pacers will rely heavily on the starters, but as revealed in game 6 against the Wizards, heavy minutes on the starters can lead to offensive stagnation late in games. The bench mob may be fighting confidence and rhythm, as coach Vogel continues to shorten their minutes, but they must figure out how to contribute in whatever minutes they do see, and hopefully give Vogel reason to leave them in longer. If the Pacers want to get to the NBA Finals, they can't just go 5 deep in the rotation.   

X-Factor: Roy Hibbert. As the Big Fella goes, so goes the Pacers. 55 built his name, and in many ways his All-Star status and max contract, on his dominance of Miami. Yes, he's been fragile, but it's his time to shine. Rip 'em up, Roy!

Prediction: This is what the team and the fans have been waiting for all season. The Pacers have played wildly inconsistent ball over the last two and a half month. But the Heat are like comfortable shoes, or a safety blanket. Indiana has played Miami 24 times over the last 3 years, more than any other opponent. The Pacers, who have at times lost their identity, know who they are against the Heat. I think the Blue and Gold are ready for the next step. Pacers in 7.

 

Western Conference Finals

#1 San Antonio Spurs vs #2 Oklahoma City Thunder

Key Matchup: Best Player vs Best Team. Kevin Durant, with a good deal of help from the physical specimen that is Russell Westbrook, can beat anybody. He is playing the league's best ball right now. Is that enough to get by the team playing the best ball right now? This is going to be fun. 

X-Factor: Pace. The Thunder have the ability to run the Spurs off the floor. The Spurs are extremely well coached and play well together. Can they dictate the pace and keep this from becoming a track meet?

Prediction: Young Guns vs the Old Guard. Lots of star power. Two rabid fan bases. This should be an entertaining and tight series. But I don't think the Spurs will be surprised like they were two years ago (up 2-0 and lost the next 4.) They now what they're getting into and they won't have a let down on there way to a 6th Finals appearance in 15 years. Spurs in 7.

Enforcer Predictions 2.0

Eastern Conference Semi-Finals

 

#1 Indiana Pacers vs #5 Washington Wizards

Key to Matchup: Not sucking

The Wizards are a good team.  They have a great point guard and a two who can fill it up in a hurry if you don't play him physical.  Their coach is from Indiana.  So there's that.  They lack veteran leadership and talent at the big positions.  The Pacers (with Hibbert playing well) are a very balanced team that can shut anybody down.  The only question is, which team will show up.  I, like every other member of Pacer Nation, am hoping for Coalson's Version Two.  

Key Player: Hibbert

We won't need 20-10 from Hibbert to win the series (but if we get it we might sweep).  There is still hope for the big man entering a series with better match-ups for him.  My guess is he's still up and down but with enough defensive energy from him we will play well enough to take this series in short order.  We are still the more talented team.  Can we play like it?

Prediction: Pacers in five.  Eff.  Should've taken seven when I had the chance!

 

#2 Miami Heat vs #6 Brooklyn Nets

Key to Matchup: Uhh...Scoring more points?

The Heat are going to take it to the Brooklyn Nets in this series.  I know, I know, the Nets swept them in the regular season.  Well, it's not the regular season.  Wade is rested, Bosh gets better when his teammates do, and LeBron is in full playoff mode.

Key Player: LeBron

As LeBron goes, so go the Heat.  And he's the best in the business.  Expect a big series from him as he takes on the old guard.  He even has a little something extra to prove, not being named MVP.  The Nets will need a monster series from Joe Johnson and Deron Williams to have a chance.  I fear Paul Pierce may just be tired by game four if he is charged with guarding LBJ too often.

Prediction: Heat in five.  I almost picked another sweep.  I don't think the Nets are anywhere near where the Heat already are and they will get better every series.  I hate them.  I hate them so much.

 

Western Conference Semi-Finals

 

#1 San Antonio Spurs vs #5 Portland Trailblazers

Key to Matchup: Learning defense on the fly

I don't like Portland's defense a heck of a lot.  They can throw up some points but, as jump shooters, tend to be very streaky.  They will need to really lock in on this team to get to four wins.  The Spurs will likely continue to limit playing time for their veteran players.  The Blazers will need to go off on their second unit to win.  Wish that were an easier task.

Key Player: Lamarcus Aldridge

In order for the Blazers to prevail, LA is going to have to eat up Tim Duncan.  That means making him work hard at both ends of the court, being physical with the old man (not necessarily his strong suit), and making good passes when the blitz of double teams come his way; and they will.  Hopefully Lilliard, Matthews, and Batum can continue to knock down the open jumpers they will have.

Prediction: Portland in six.  They have to win in six.  Travelling to San Antonio is not a good scene for a game seven.  Rip City!

 

#2 Oklahoma Thunder vs #3 Los Angeles Clippers

Key to Matchup: First to 110

This will be a fun series to watch.  I do fear that the winner of it may be too gassed to take on the winner of Portland-San Antontio.  These teams don't particularly like each other either (does anyone like the Clipper?), so it should be a good show.

Key Player: Who else?

Kevin Durant is the league's MVP and couldn't have deserved it more.  However, he'd trade that in a heartbeat for the Finals MVP; there are new goals.  He may have to average 35 a game for his team to prevail.  Luckily, that's not out of range, especially at the pace they'll be playing.

Prediction: Thunder in seven.  The Thunder were a bit underwhelming last series and will need a better performance to survive this round.  Just not sure they're playing well enough to do anything but win in seven.  Personally wouldn't lay down a dime on this series.

The Bartender's Round Two Predictions

#5 Washington Wizards vs. #1 Indiana Pacers

Key Matchup: Pacers vs Themselves

The Pacers, at their best, can beat anyone in the NBA, especially these Wizards. The problem is the Pacers have not been at their best in a very long time. Fans keep waiting for the first-half-of-the-season Pacers to reemerge and it may not happen. If they can use this series to reignite themselves against a beatable Wizards team, hope still remains for a long playoff run. If not, this young and hungry Washington team will pull the upset. 

X-Factor: Hibbert

The cog that runs an inside-out offense and defends the rim allowing the Pacer guards to stick to shooters on the wing is Big Roy. His fall from Defensive Player of the Year candidate, All-Star, and media darling has been precipitous. And it directly aligns with the Pacers' struggles. He can win his matchups against the Washington bigs, but will he? If not, I fear for the Pacers and for Hibbert's career.

Prediction: 

Still think the Blue and Gold are better. Pacers in 6

#2 Miami Heat vs #6 Brooklyn Nets

Key Matchup: Veteran Savvy

The Brooklyn Nets took on an unfathomable payroll to assemble some of the best old dogs in the game. Joe Johnson and Paul Pierce have been hitting game winners for over a decade and Deron Williams, Andre Kirilinko, and Kevin Garnett have all been around the big-game block. They were brought together for this very series. They will be pitted against the veteran laden and two-time defending champs Miami Heat. Both team know all the tricks. This should be fun. 

X-Factor: KG

If the Big Ticket can find some of his old magic (brilliant defender, deadly jump shooter, renowned shit-talker) than I give the Nets a punchers chance. But I'm pretty sure all the miles on KG's wheels have left him punchless. We shall see. 

Prediction:

The Nets won all four regular season matchups against the Heat, but this ain't the regular season. There will be some close games and it should be a competitive series, but Miami will expose Brooklyn as old. Miami in 5

#1 San Antonio Spurs vs #4 Portland Trailblazers

Key Matchup: Parker vs Lillard

Dallas was able to keep Tony Parker out of the lane and it slowed San Antonio's offense. He makes that team go. Is Lillard up to that challenge? On the other side, Lillard is an electric offensive player that Parker cannot contain alone. Whoever ends up winning the point guard matchup will most likely be the winner of the series. 

X-Factor: Role Players

LA gonna get his. TIm Duncan, too. If Parker and Lillard play to a draw, this series will be decided by the role players. Portland's Batum, Matthews, Lopez will have opportunities to make a massive difference. But Gregg Popovich excels at getting the best out of his second and third tier guys. It's on Portland's unheralded helpers to outplay the best supporting cast in basketball.

Prediction:

Love rooting for this Portland team, but the Spurs aren't done yet. SA in 6

#3 LA Clippers vs #2 Oklahoma City Thunder

Key Matchup: Durant vs Barnes

Tony Allen did an outstanding job defending Kevin Durant, and Durant still averaged nearly 30 points a game. Matt Barnes is a get-under-your-skin rugged defender, but I'm not convinced he can do better than Allen did. KD is fresh off his first MVP trophy. How hot can he get?

X-Factor: Chris Paul

Rumors are, the best point guard in basketball is banged up. He had an effective, if un-spectacular, first round. He's not gonna stop being "a little bitch" but he must impose his will on this series, particularly so, as he is matched up against the physical force of nature that is Russell Westbrook. 

Prediction:

I think this seres goes the distance. Both teams are stacked with talent and hungry. Doc Rivers is 10 times the coach Scott Brooks is and I'm not convinced that home court advantage will matter that much, so LA has a real chance at an upset. But KD will be the difference. He's just too good right now.  OKC in 7

Joey's Mildly Informed Round 2 Predictions

Indiana Pacers vs. Washington Wizards

This one is easy. Pacers in 7. The talent gap isn't nearly as deep as Round 1, but still noticeable. Washington is a decent team with a lot of heart, and some damn good young guards, but Indiana is older, wiser, and just plain better. And gosh darn it, people like them.

Plus, you might as well use the home court advantage to the fullest. Doing anything else would be wasteful.

Miami Heat vs. Brooklyn Nets

Heat in 7. There, I said it. Yes, Brooklyn swept (4-0!) Miami in the regular season. Miami also isn't excited about the regular season. KG and Pierce will put on their big boy pants, but El Heat can do this.

San Antonio Spurs vs. Portland Trail Blazers

Lillard vs. Parker. LMA vs. Duncan. That's pure entertainment. The answer is SAS in 7, but it's going be an amazing journey. The Big Two from PDX are both going to have moments that are beyond the already high expectations. See how they closed their series? The problem is Parker, Duncan, and Ginobili know exactly what to do here. Also Pop.

Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Los Angeles Clippers

OKC in 7. All 7s. Game 7 is in vogue this postseason, and it would make sense that this 2/3 matchup keep up the trend. LAC have sympathy because of this Sterling nonsense. More and more strange stories are coming out about this man. Everyone was affected, but it won't help them on the court.

At the end of the day, Kevin Durant is the MVP, and Westbrook is crazy enough to drive them past the Clips. Game 7 is going to be at Chesapeake Energy, and those fan aren't going to let them lose. Sorry Seattle.

The Good Doctor's Round 2 Predictions

East

#1 Indiana vs. #5 Washington

Match-up to watch: John Wall vs. George Hill/Paul George. Wall has been electric this year, having figured out how to vary his blazing speed AND knock down jump shots with regularity. Limiting his paint penetration, and thus the Wizards potential for success, will be key for the Pacers.

Coolest potential subplot: The re-emergence of Roy Hibbert from basketball oblivion. After Game 1, this seems nearly impossible. However, I (foolishly) believe that Big Roy can have a moment in these playoffs, but his opportunities to so may be limited going forward.

Prediction: Pacers in 6. EFF! I should’ve taken Pacers in 7 when I had the chance. 

 

#2 Miami vs. #6 Brooklyn

Match-up to watch: LeBron James vs. Joe Johnson/Paul Pierce. LBJ officially relinquished the MVP belt, and be certain he is pissed. That usually means trouble for opponents, and it will be for Brooklyn. But, the Nets have the rare luxury of having two dudes with the requisite size to bother James when he’s trying to score AND make him work a little on the defensive end. It probably still won’t be enough to keep him from averaging a 30-12-8 for the series.

Coolest potential subplot: The last five minutes of every game. This isn’t so much a subplot, as it is the main narrative. Most of these games will be close. Both teams have vets that have been in these situations a billion times. Who will execute the best in crunch time?

Prediction: Heat in 7. They’re just good. And, oh-by-the-way, Wade got to rest for a week after they dispatched the Boobcats with little trouble.

 

West

#1 San Antonio vs. #5 Portland

Match-up to watch: Tim Duncan vs. LaMarcus Aldridge. It’s as if The Big Fundamental will be playing himself after a trip through the way-back machine. LMA is playing at a ridiculous level, and Timmy will certainly have his hands full in trying to slow him. One key may be making LMA do some work on the defensive end, a job he can do, but does not enjoy.

Coolest potential subplot: The scoring contest that will take place between Tony Parker and Damian Lillard. As predicted by yours truly, Lillard shines in the playoffs. He nailed the series winner against the Rockets and averaged nearly 26 PTS and 7 ASTS. Parker meanwhile put up a pedestrian 20 and 5, but wasn’t facing the swiss cheese defense of Portland. Those that love point guard play should really enjoy Round 2 of the Western Conference Playoffs.

Prediction: Spurs in 6. Sorry Nico and Dave, but the ride ends here. Unlike the Rockets, the Spurs can get stops when they need them.

 

#2 Oklahoma City vs. #3 Los Angeles

Match-up to watch: Chris Paul vs. Russell Westbrook. Even before CP3 exploded in Game 1, I was ridiculously excited to watch these two go at it. Both are super talented, we know this. What takes this to the next level is the competitive motor that both of these guys have, along with the downright nasty streak that each possesses. I would not be surprised if several scruffles break out between these two. Hopefully, it also takes their play to even more transcendent levels. 

Coolest potential subplot: KD’s defense of the MVP trophy (and continued middle finger extension towards The Oklahoman). In Round 1, KD faced the phenomenal defense of Tony Allen and the Grizzlies, averaging “only” 29 a night. Here, he’s facing Matt Barnes and Jared Dudley. Um...expect that average to increase.

Prediction: Clippers in 6. I just think Doc Rivers is going to take Scott Brooks behind the coaching woodshed and teach him a thing or two.

UndebeataCup

The rotating UndebeataCup!  It actually rotates.

Congratulations to UndebeataCup 2014 winners Sweet J and Claire!

Their fantasy team Lithuanian Vakidises ended the season 71-79, struggling early under the leadership of rookie point guard Michael Carter-Williams. But relying on a veteran front court featuring Tyson Chandler and Defensive Player of the Year Joakim Noah, as well as electric guard James Harden, they found some grit in the playoffs.

As a seven seed, they eked out a first round upset over #2 seed Undebeatable analyst and Enforcer Jon Harper, winning the series 5-4 by stealing the steals category 60-59. The second round produced another thriller, with Vakidises pulling out another 5-4 series win against 3 seed Blazer Nation!!! featuring All-World LeBron James. In the Finals, Sweet J and Claire matched up against the Deng I Had It franchise, headed up by the Chairman. #4 Deng I Had It dominated #1 seed and heavy favorite Riggin for Wiggins in the previous round, but the Lithuania Vakidises' momentum proved too much to overcome. Your 2014 Champs cruised to a 6-3 victory and now hold the UndebeataCup.

Expect it to arrive in an unmarked package soon and proudly display it on your mantle. It's your Cup to defend in 2015. Congrats on a great year!

Enforceable Predictions

East

#1 Indiana Pacers vs #8 Atlanta Hawks

Key to the Series: Defense/Hustle

The Hawks are the worst team in the playoffs this year. That doesn't mean that we will walk over them. They handed us our most embarrassing loss of the season just a couple short (or maybe very long) weeks ago. That will be fresh in both teams' minds. Still, the Pacers are a talented team and own the one seed. All-time there have been five upsets in the 1-8 match-up. I sincerely hope we will not be the sixth. This will be all about defense, rebounding, and getting out in transition. Hopefully we can use this series to get our Mojo back and play Indiana (read “team”) basketball.

Key Player: PG

It's the playoffs and the team with the best player tends to win. That's especially true with Hibbert playing as poorly as he has since his rookie year and Bynum already a scratch. We need PG to be that player on both ends of the floor; and shoot better than 40 per cent.  That being said, we'll need real production from Scola, West, and even Mahinmi to take advantage of an undersized team to close.

Prediction: Pacers in 6

 

#2 Miami Heat vs #7 Charlotte Boob-cats

Charlotte is a decent team, but this is the last time I get to use that dig before the name change!

Key to the Series: Pace

The Heat are the clearly superior team here, even with their late-year struggles. They seemed apathetic about the one seed but I expect that they will be very interested very quickly once the ball is in the air. They have the experience, the coaching, and you know they have the players. What can Charlotte do? They will have to slow this series down to crawl and make it impossible to watch. Keeping Miami out of transition is easier said than done, though, and eventually they will speed the game up enough to create the space their mini-HOF needs to dominate.

Key Player: Al Jefferson

You pretty well know what you get from the Heat. If Charlotte is to have any chance, Al Jefferson is going to have to be outstanding. Unfortunately, Miami knows that and will assuredly bring tons of pressure. Can anyone else knock down a few shots?

Prediction: Miami in 4

 

#3 Toronto Raptors vs #6 Brooklyn Nets

Key to the Series: Playoff Experience

This the Nets have in spades. Toronto is a young and talented team and may be able to give the Nets a run for their money. In the end, I think that having so many players that have been there will be too much to overcome. Next year, Toronto.

Key Player: Joe Johnson?

I think this will be a close series and Joe Johnson is one of the best clutch players in the league. Deron Williams and Pierce will have to do their part as well, but this series may come down to a big shot. Even Jason Kidd doesn't know yet who will take it.

Prediction: Nets in 6

 

#4 Chicago Bulls vs #5 Washington Wizards

Key to the Series: Physicality

The Bulls are a hard-nosed team that can take it to opponents in a playoff-style game where anything goes. But they also never seem to do anything the easy way. The Wizards are an exciting team and have every chance of winning but will need to match the intensity of the Bulls to pull it off. Few teams can sustain that over a long series.

Key Player: John Wall

Joaquim Noah is going to play fantastic and do all the things he has done all year. The question mark here is John Wall. Young, electric, and playoff-inexperienced, he will need a monster series and to control his turnovers to give his team a chance.

Prediction: Bulls in 7

 

West Side!

#1 San Antonio Spurs vs #8 Dallas Mavericks

Key to Series: Depth

The Spurs know how to get it done a million different ways. They are playing the best basketball in the league right now. They have the best coach. The Spurs will find ways to get it done. It may end up seeming closer than the final series score even if they sweep but in a close game their combination of defense, depth, and experience should win the push almost every time. The Mavs are a good team. The Spurs are a truly great one.

Key Player: Dirk

Time is getting short for Dirk to get back to the dance. As good as Monta Ellis has been all year (and that has been very good), Dirk still needs to be the best player on the floor for the Mavs to have any hope of an upset. I'm pulling for Carlisle, but this is a very tough assignment.

Prediction: Spurs in 4*


#2 OKC Thunder vs #7 Memphis Grizzlies

Key to Series: Pace

Last year the Memphis Grizzlies took advantage of the injury to Westbrook to launch OKC from the playoffs. I'm pretty sure that Durant has not forgotten that. A healthy team, OKC has all the pieces and plenty of motivation. Can the Grizz keep the pace where they need it to be with Westbrook on the floor? Spoiler alert: the answer is no. The Grizz want a grind-it-out series with scores in the 80's. The Thunder are not going to oblige.

Key Player: Durant

As important as Westbrook is to keeping the pace up, spreading the floor, and making this team unstoppable, this is Durant's year. The presumptive MVP has been playing out of his gourd all year. Does he need to have a perfect series? Absolutely not. He'll just be the most fun to watch.

Prediction: Thunder in 4*

 

*Yes, I realize I just called two sweeps in an ultra-competitive conference. As good as the bottom part of this bracket is, the teams at the top are on another level.  These two series won't be close. But, as consolation, look to the other match-ups in this conference to be great basketball to watch and potentially go the distance.

 

#3 LA Clippers vs # 6 Golden State Warriors

Key to the Series: Endurance

This is the most exciting coaching match-up of the early second season. While I think Doc has the edge, Mark Jackson has an unbelievable ability to get his guys up for big games (see the 2013 playoffs). Both teams play an exciting brand of basketball and will get up and down. Someone will get tired eventually as this series will go deep.

Key Player: Stephen Curry

I hate to have to pick a player here because there are so many to choose from. Redick got the trash-talk going early (of all people), calling out Klay Thompson. Both are potential X-factors. But with stars like CP3, Blake Griffin, and Curry running around the big names will leave the biggest mark on this series. Losing Bogut is a major blow to the Warriors but with other players stretching the floor and Curry able to shoot from 40 feet, they are still very much alive. They will, however, need big contributions from Speights and Pacers-fan favorite Jermaine O'Neal to pull this all together. This match-up was going to be decided by the small-ball line-ups anyway.

Prediction: Warriors in 7 (Go Mark!) These guys love being the underdog.

 

#4 Houston Rockets vs #5 Portland Trailblazers

Key to the Series: Defense

Ha! Just kidding. If I don't get two games in the 120's I'll be shocked. In seriousness, someone will need a stop at some point.  Can either of these teams produce one? With so many jumpers, defense may just come down to fatigue. The Trailblazers are not tested, but have talent from one to five. The Rockets' talent is concentrated in Howard and the bearded wonder. They will need Parsons to be big for them to close.  Not to mention big defensive efforts from their fours against LA.  That means potentially Casspi, Montejunas, Jones.  Good luck.  Maybe they will try to slow him down with Robert Covington.  Yes, that dude is actually on their roster.

Key Player: Damien Lillard

Time for a coming out party! This kid is crazy good and can take over this series. He will need plenty of help from Aldridge to close the deal, but this should be a fun series to watch. I like the upset. Rip City, son!

Prediction: Blazers in 5

Okay, maybe six....

The Bartender: Mixing Up Crappy 1st Round NBA Playoff Predictions

East

Indiana Pacers vs. Atlants Hawks

Key Matchup: Pero Antic vs. Roy Hibbert

Antic will light up the Pacers in this series just like he did in the regular season. (17 points per game on 72% shooting against Indiana, 6.6 points on 40% against the rest of the league.) Figuring out a way to guard him will be Vogel's challenge, but doing so while keeping Hibbert on the floor will be key. Hibbert must get his confidence back for the Pacers to have a deep run in the playoffs. Getting Big Roy enough burn, and putting him in situations to have success is the best way to get that done. Sure Vogel could dust off Copeland to chase around the Macedonian rookie, but I think giving up a few three pointers is worth the price of getting Hibbs some easy looks in the paint.

X-Factor: George Hill

Hill's been steady of late…steadily invisible. His confidence is way down. He's even missing out on backpacks for the kids at an alarming rate. Meanwhile, his backup, CJ Watson, is on fire. If Hill isn't properly motivated, he will see his crunch time minutes reduced. If he has even an efficient series, the league better take notice, 'cause the Pacers are coming.

Prediction: Atlanta embarrassed Indiana on their home floor to the tune of 107-88 just two weeks ago. The Hawks are capable of winning games against these Pacers, however they can't beat them in a series. Atlanta's only real hope is the Pacers beat themselves. Sorry Hawk fans…not this round. Indiana comes out focused and sharp and takes care of business.

Pacers in 5

Editors Note: I wrote these predictions before game 1. After the Pacers lost at home, I am hitting all of the panic buttons. But i am a hardcore (delusional) fan and so I am keeping this prediction. Get it together boys and sweep the next four.

Miami Heat vs. Charlotte Soon-to-be Hornets

Key Matchup: LeBron vs. Michael KIdd-Gilchrist

MKG is the glue of Charlottes stout D, but boy will he have his hands full. No one can stop LBJ, but if the young Kidd can make him work, this could be a much more closely contested contest than people imagine.

X-Factor: Al Jefferson

Big Al has quietly become my favorite non-Pacer, largely because of this and all he does is put on a clinic in the low block. He is a beast and produces problems for the whoever the Heat might try to throw at him. Miami will double/trap/help/front and whatever else the can think of to make life miserable for Jefferson and get the ball out of his hands. How effectively can he move the ball against the Heats lightning quick pressure D? And can anyone else on Charlotte make them pay?

Prediction: The Tasteful Side-Boob Cats are a legitimate playoff team with low post scoring and defense. If Miami is not sharp (and they haven't played that way of late) Charlotte could definitely win a game or two.

Heat in 5

Toronto Raptors vs. Brooklyn Nets

Key Matchup: Kevin Garnett vs. Oldness

Can the Big Ticket bring anything for this playoff run or is his illustrious NBA career essentially done?

X-Factor: The Toronto Fan Base

America's Hat hasn't seen its team make a significant playoff run since 2001 and the fans are going to be pumped that this Raptors team has a chance. I don't think the veteran laden Nets will crumble under such circumstances, but a rabid home court advantage might be enough to push a talented, young and playoff untested Toronto to another level.

Prediction: I think Toronto's better and they should win in six. But If this goes the distance, I can envision the experience factor (particularly some bloodless daggers by Johnson and Pierce down the stretch) outweighing home court.

Nets in 7

Chicago Bulls vs. Washington Wizards

Key Matchup: The Bigs

While John Wall must fight through the rugged defensive scheme that is surely going to be tailored around stopping him, this series will be dictated by how Washington's front court produces. Can the Gortat/Booker/Nene hold its own against the likes of Boozer/ Sixth Man Candidate Taj Gibson/Defensive Player of the Year and MVP candidate Joakim Noah? If they can, Washington's superior offense might be enough to tilt this contest.

X-Factor: Noah

A gifted athlete playing his guts out. He's currently playing the best basketball of his career and will be the best player in this series.

Prediction: I'm concerned the Bulls can't score enough to keep up with the Wiz and I like Washington's depth, but in the playoffs the combination of defense, rebounding, and having the best player general wins.

Bulls in 6

West

San Antonio Spurs vs. Dallas Mavericks

Key Matchup: Timmy vs. Dirk

Two old warriors still competing at a high level. This will be their sixth meeting in the playoffs. Cool shit.

X-Factor: Coaching

Gregg Popovich and Rick Carlisle are arguably the two best coaches in the Association. This has potential to be a chess match.

Prediction: The Spurs are a surgical knife.

Spurs in 5

Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Memphis Grizzles

Key Matchup: Who has the best BBQ?

X-Factor: Kevin Durant

KD is out of his mind good...unstoppable scorer, willing passer, and rangy defender playing at an MVP level-and he's not losing in the first round.

Prediction: This is a legit rivalry. Two years ago the Thunder eked out a game 7 overtime thriller to advance. Last year Memphis toughed out a close six game Westbrook-less series. These teams know each other and it has all the makings of another 7 game thriller. But Durantula is just too good right now.

Thunder in 6

LA Clippers vs. Golden State Warriors

Key Matchup: Stephen Curry vs. Chris Paul

There is an augment to be made that these are the two best point guards in basketball. Can Paul's savvy neutralize Curry's unworldly shooting ability? This is going to be fun.

X-Factor: Jermaine O'Neal

Blast from Pacers past becomes a huge factor in this series, now that Warriors starting center Bogut is down with an injury. That's probably not a good thing. Mark Jackson will utilize a lot of small ball, but when JO gets important minutes can he summon his low post mojo via the way, way, way back machine? Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan gonna dunk. A lot.

Prediction: Curry is one of the most electric players in basketball. When he gets hot, nothing past the timeline is out of his range, and it's must see TV. A scorching Curry can steal a game or two and the Oracle is a tough place to play for anyone including the Clips. Smells like the makings of an upset. But LA is playing playoff style basketball, Blake and CP3 are top 10 players, and Doc is a championship tested coach. This will be uncomfortable close for Clip-town, but the ride doesn't end yet.

Clippers in 7

Houston Rockets vs. Portland Trailblazers

Key Matchup: Blazers vs. the Refs

Harden's nearly unguardable perimeter speed along with his penchant for exaggerating contact led to him getting to the line 9 times a game. The Bearded One may be spending an excruciating amount of time at the line in this series. The Blazers need to stay patient and composed with the officiating or the series might begin to unravel.

X-Factor: LaMarcus Aldridge

Who gonna guard him? Ain't nobody gonna stop him.

Prediction: LA will get his, but so will Harden and Dwight Howard. This should be a high scoring and entertaining series. I have a terrible feeling there will be a referee mistake/judgement call surrounding Harden that Portland fans painfully remember forever (a la Larry Johnson's four-point play) that tilts the series.

Houston in 7

The Good Doctor's Round 1 Predictions

East

#1 Indiana vs. #8 Atlanta

Match-up to watch: Clearly it’s the Pero “land of” Antic “-quity” against the struggling Roy Hibbert. Antic can straight stroke it from deep, which is a difficult defensive assignment for Hibbs and pulls him away as a help rim protector to boot. Hibbert will HAVE to make Atlanta pay on the other end to justify his being on the floor.

Coolest potential subplot: The George Hill vs. Jeff Teague battle. Though a couple years his senior, Hill seems to play with an extra chip on his shoulder against Teague (or any other Indy PG that went to more highly-touted high school and collegiate programs). Maybe this is just the challenge Hill needs to snap out of his funk.

Prediction: Pacers in 6. Indy is definitely better than this team and will win the series, but they’re not playing well enough to sweep anyone.

 

#2 Miami vs. #7 Charlotte

Match-up to watch: Al Jefferson vs. the Birdman-Haslem-Oden pupu platter. Big Al has killed it this year and demands a double team every possession. He has the potential to win a game by himself.

Coolest potential subplot: McBob’s antics. Josh McRoberts has been very effective this year, somewhat epitomizing the scrappy nature of this Bobcats team. How many T’s does he draw? Can he lure LBJ into a mini-scuffle and a suspension?

Prediction: Miami in 5. Charlotte hasn’t beaten Miami since the big 3 took their talents to south beach. They get one, finally, but only because Miami rests Wade and/or gets bored.

 

#3 Toronto vs. #6 Brooklyn

Match-up to watch: Amir Johnson vs. Paul Pierce. Brooklyn has played Pierce at the 4 for more than half the season to great success. The ability of Toronto to deal with this strange line-up will be critical to the outcome of the series.

Coolest potential subplot: Jason Kidd’s ability to handle a playoff series as a coach. We all saw how he struggled out of the gates to coach an NBA team. The playoffs are a whole other animal. How will he deal with game-to-game adjustments? Luckily for him, Dwayne Casey on the other bench has just as little experience.

Prediction: Toronto in 7. The basketball gods hate tanking. Brooklyn pussed out of a potential playoff re-match with the Bulls, and they will pay the price with another first round exit.

 

#4 Chicago vs. #5 Washington

Match-up to watch: John Wall vs. Kirk Hinrich. Allright, Johnny, you broke out a bit this year. How do you play on the big stage? This is a match-up you should dominate and stake your claim as the best player in this series. Can you do it?

Coolest potential subplot: PLAYOFF BASKETBALL IN THE DISTRICT!!!!! Although, people here seem more bummed that the Caps are missing the NHL playoffs than they are that the Wiz climbed to the 5th seed. Will they actually have a home court advantage? There are tons of stupid Bulls fans in and around DC.

Prediction: Chicago in 6. Los Bulls just have the experience edge here. There will be at least three games that come down to the wire, and I bet Chicago takes all three. I don’t trust Randy Whitman as far as I can throw him. 

 

WEST

#1 San Antonio vs. #8 Dallas

Match-up to watch: Tim Duncan vs. Dirk Nowitzski. Is it 2005? If you watched these two dudes play all year, you might think so. Nothing in particular to pay attention to, just enjoy these future Hall of Famers do their thing.

Coolest potential subplot: Monty Ellis on a big stage. Monty is playing at a much more efficient level this year, and his still almost impossible to guard if he gets it going. He’s been stuck on shitty teams most of his career, if he can lead the Mavs to an upset, lots of people will know his name.

Prediction: San Antonio in 6. Dallas is good enough to steal a couple of games, but the Spurs are just on another level and have the experience, skill and professionalism to take care of business in their two-month quest for a 5th ring.

 

#2 Oklahoma City vs. #7 Memphis

Match-up to watch: Marc Gasol vs. Kendrick Perkins. OK, Perk, here’s the series where you earn your money. The NBA intelligentsia thinks it’s clear the Thunder should play small, but Scotty Brooks has stuck by his man Perk for just such situations. Can he slow down Gasol and help OKC win quickly?

Coolest potential subplot: The chess match that is Brooks vs.Joerger. Brooks is apparently on the hotseat based on his aforementioned penchant for playing Perkins too much. On the other side, this is Joerger’s first trip to the playoffs. Will he get the pants coached off him?

Prediction: OKC in 7. The Thunder might finish these guys off sooner, but the Grizzlies just fight soooo hard and give themselves a chance to win every game.

 

#3 Los Angeles vs. #6 Golden State

Match-up to watch: Chris Paul vs. Stephen Curry. How in the hell will Curry deal with the size and strength of Paul? He certainly will make CP3 work super hard on the defensive end, but will he limit him enough. 

Coolest potential subplot: Hopefully, a lot of Curry/Crawford heat-check games. Both of these guys can light it up, and I’m hoping for at least one game when they trade threes for 7-8 straight possessions.

Prediction: LA in 5. I just think that the W’s won’t be able to deal with either Paul or Blake Griffin. The Clips have been playing very focused ball for a good month now and are ready to make the case that they belong in the upper echelon of title contenders.

 

#4 Houston vs. #5 Portland

Match-up to watch: LaMarcus Aldridge vs. Terrance Jones. LMA was playing at an MVP level before the All-Star break, but then battled a bit of an injury. He seems to be back to form, which spells trouble for the Rockets. Can Jones limit him enough?

Coolest potential subplot: A shattering of the 3P FG attempts in a playoff game and series. Both of these teams launch it from deep a ton (26.6 a game for HOU, 25.3 for POR). 

Prediction: Portland in 6. I think that Portland plays slightly better defense than Houston, and that gives them the edge here.

The UndebeatAwards (NBA Predictions)

On the eve of our second annual UndebeatAwards (NBA), it only seemed fair to show you the results from last year. With such information, you may or may not choose to take our predictions in upcoming Episode 56 straight to Vegas. 

UndebeatAwards 2013 (NBA)*

*Not to be confused with UndebeatAwards (Pacers) or Fanatsy UndebeataCup
 

MVP

Nominees/Shoutouts: Kevin Durant, LeBron James
Undebeatable Consensus: LeBron James
Actual Winner: Lebron James

Rookie of the Year

Nominees/Shoutouts: Bradley Beal, Anthony Davis, Damien Lillard
Undebeatable Consensus: Damien Lillard
Actual Winner: Damien Lillard

6th Man of the Year

Nominees/Shoutouts: Jarret Jack, Jamal Crawford, JR Smith, Tyler Hansborogh, Magic Fans
Undebeatable Split Ballot: JR Smith/Jamal Crawford
Actual Winner: JR Smith

Most Improved Player

Nominees/Shoutouts: Paul George, Jarret Jack, Larry Sanders, Jrue Holiday, James Harden, Goran Dragic, Lance Stephenson, Steph Curry, Greivis Vasquez, Nikola Vucevic
Undebeatable Consensus: James Harden
Actual Winner: Paul George

Defensive Player of the Year

Nominees/Shoutouts: Joakim Noah, Marc Gasol, LeBron James, Roy Hibbert
Undebeatable Split Ballot: Marc Gasol/Joakim Noah
Actual Winner: Marc Gasol

Coach of the Year

Nominees/Shoutouts: Frank Vogel/Tom Thibodeau, Greg Popovich, George Karl, Mike Woodson, Mark Jackson
Undebeatable Consensus: Frank Vogel
Actual Winner: George Karl (fired during off-season)

 

Tune in next week for all the bold predictions/waffling/erroneous selections that is the UndebeatAwards! 

 

Room for one more?

By Erik Drost from United States (Andrew Bynum  Uploaded by Dudek1337) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Erik Drost from United States (Andrew Bynum  Uploaded by Dudek1337) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The news came Saturday morning via text, then Twitter exploded in the Pacer world.  Andrew Bynum was signed by the Indiana Pacers.  The same guy that was universally panned just two weeks ago by each of us was now just signed to our favorite team.  What happened?

The Sports Illustrated article linked at the end piqued interest.  Maybe there was more to this.  Bird is confident.  Just look at him.

The way these guys roll around here, I think they can handle themselves. They control their own locker room. That never really entered into my mind. They’re big boys. They know what their goals are and if Andrew can come in here and help them, it’ll be much appreciated.

Larry Bird clearly does not concern himself with what others think about this, or anything else.  He's right more often than not, and this current team reflects what he can build.  We will soon find out whether or not this was a stroke of genius.  Please prove us wrong, Bynum.

Joey's Battle with the Elements is Front Page News

Our host brazed Indianapolis's Snowpocalypse and Deep Freeze without power. Check out this front page Indy Star article to see how he coped. (His interview starts in paragraph five.)

 

Indianapolis Star 01/06/2014, Page A01


A WINTER WALLOP 

OUTAGES:
 Some might be without power 24-48 hours. 

BRRRR: Possible wind-chill tempera ture: -50 

Weather shutting down Indy

By Marisa Kwiatkowski and Jill Disis 

marisa.kwiatkowski@indystar.com 

Dozens of school districts, businesses and government offices made plans to close today in the aftermath of what Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard called a storm “unlike anything we’ve seen in decades.” 

More than 11 inches of snow pelted the city Sunday, breaking the daily record for Jan. 5 that was set in 1977, according to the National Weather Service. Surrounding areas recorded as much as 12 inches of snow. The heavy snowfall prompted travel warnings in 52 Indiana counties, including Marion, Boone, Hamilton, Hendricks, Johnson and Morgan. Travel in those areas could be restricted to emergency management workers only while the warning, the highest level of travel advisory, was in effect, according to the Indiana Department of Homeland Security. 

Nearly 25,200 Indianapolis Power & Light customers were without power as of 9:21 p.m. Sunday, according to the utility’s website. Nearly 9,500 Duke Energy customers across the state were without power at that time, including 526 in Hamilton County, 468 in Johnson County and 91 in Hendricks. 

Ballard warned people to be careful around power lines because they could break under the heavy snow. Police reported receiving numerous calls about downed power lines Sunday. 

Indianapolis resident Joey Gufreda and his wife,  Katherin Chi, lost power around 3 p.m. Sunday. They lit candles and gathered firewood from the backyard before the sun went down. 

When their power wasn’t back on by late Sunday, the couple improvised for dinner. 

Chi seasoned potatoes with salt and pepper, wrapped them in foil, then put them on the fire for three hours. She later added seasoning, cheese and spinach. 

“It was a good, hot meal,” Chi said. 

The couple plan to make the most of what they have. 

“It’s probably the longest and coldest it’s been since the power went out,” Gufreda said. “We’re having fun. Candles, fire, it could be worse.” 

Numerous Indianapolis-area school districts will be closed today because of the storm, including Indianapolis Public Schools, Perry Township, Center Grove Schools, Warren Township, Franklin Township, Wayne Township, Carmel Clay Schools and Zionsville Schools. 

I-65 was closed between Lafayette and Merrillville. 

The Indiana General Assembly canceled what would have been the first day of its legislative session. City-County offices will be closed, and the mayor asked businesses not to open today or to wait until noon. 

The storms, which affected much of the Midwest, also resulted in mass flight cancellations at Indianapolis International Airport. Carlo Bertolini, an airport spokesman, said Sunday there have been roughly 250 cancellations across the airport’s inbound and outbound flights. 

“You have cascading problems throughout the system,” he said. “Chicago O’Hare has several hundred cancellations both ways. Everything’s tied together in that respect.” 

While officials contended with treacherous conditions and some homeowners coped with outages, some residents enjoyed the lighter side of the snowfall. 

About 50 people participated in a snowball fight Sunday afternoon Monument Circle. Indianapolis resident Josh Baker, 26, who organized the event using Twitter, said he was shocked by the turnout. 

“I wore my arm out, so that should give you an indication,” Baker said. 

Brownsburg resident Michael Dowden, 35, built an 11-foot snowman with his wife and two kids. He said he needed a step ladder to reach the top of it. 

“This is the most snow I can remember getting in one day in the Indianapolis area,” he said. 

Call Star reporter Marisa Kwiatkowski at (317) 444-6135. Follow her on Twitter:@IndyMarisaK. 

A (non-verbal) conversation with David West

It’s a poorly kept secret that while we at The Undebeatbles love each Pacer unconditionally. One of our favorites is our spiritual and emotional leader, David West. I recently had the chance to sit down with the team’s leader in collective will, and here’s a snippet of the conversation we had.

The Doctor: David, thanks for sitting down and taking the time to talk. Not sure if you know this, but I’m actually a Xavier graduate as well. We actually overlapped a bit, and I even drove you in the shuttle a couple times. So, GO MUSKIES! Do you keep in touch with the team? How do you feel about their chances this year?

DW_xu_celebrate_1.jpg

The Doctor: OK, OK. I’m a little less bullish than you, but moving to the Big East will be good for the program overall. Enough reminiscing, let’s talk about these Pacers. Your role on this team is as a leader, veteran and mentor...does that make you feel old?

DW_angry_2.jpg

The Doctor: Whoa, big fella! Don’t overreact. I’m just saying we’re not spring chickens anymore. To be fair, you’re still killing it out there and leading this team to a 10-1 record. What are your general feelings about this team?

DW_goofy_celebration.jpg

The Doctor: I totally agree!!! Glad to hear that the feeling in the locker room is similar to the giddiness that we as fans have. I love watching this team play. You guys definitely pull for one another. Do you feel like you’re in the best sports relationship of your life? Like, do you buy each other surprise gifts and give random hugs and stuff?

DW_confused.jpg

The Doctor: Yeah, ok, maybe not. But you guys definitely get along, right? The chemistry seems amazing.

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The Doctor: Awesome. That’s especially good, because you’re going to need it to do the things this team wants to accomplish. There are teams out there standing in your way. Obviously, Miami has LeBron and are reigning champs, Brooklyn has a deep and experienced team, and Chicago just beat your pants off. Do you fear any of these teams?

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The Doctor: That’s what I thought. Eff those guys. OK, David, I’ll let you get out of here. Good luck with the season, I look forward to celebrating in June!!!

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