Last night we witnessed two elite NBA teams treat a meaningless regular season game like it was Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Although no team was eliminated from title contention last night the intensity and rough play indicate that health not talent may go along way in determining who the next Eastern Conference Champion.
After being eliminated from the playoffs last year the Pacers were on a mission to beat the heat by securing home court. And with only a handful of games remaining they are very close to attaining their goal. Although being the top seed certainly has its advantage, there road to the title will a tad more difficult than two defending NBA Champions.
The Pacers clearly began this season with the end in mind, believing that the outcome of Game 7 would be different on their home court. However, it appears they may have forgotten that there is a Eastern Conference Semifinals and the team that may be waiting is the Joakim Noah and the Rose-less Chicago Bulls. Both the Heat and Pacers have struggled against the Bulls and their battles has left its fare share of bumps and bruises. Although a win seems certain, whoever survives the seven game battle royal with the Bulls will enter the Eastern Conference Finals wounded, scarred, and vulnerable due to exhaustion and fatigue.
Since both the Pacers and Heat are far too prideful to tank, ask yourself which road to the conference final would you prefer? Facing the rough and tumble Bulls? Or making quick work of young and inexperienced Washington Wizards and the Toronto Raptors? Although the Pacers may have won the battle, did they compromise their title hopes along the way? It takes 16 wins to be crowned an NBA Champion, and this year the two seed may provide the better route. Did the Heat win in a losing effort? Only time will tell. Stay tuned…I know I will.