This is life on the NBA treadmill. After splitting two games, the Indiana Pacers have gone thisaway and the Miami Heat have gone thataway, not to see each other again until spring.
Talk about a series on hiatus. There will be 1,058,400 Americans born, more or less, in the 98 days between the Heat’s comeback victory over the Pacers Dec. 18 and their next jump ball together on March 26. But the break likely will not change the message of the early season. One team in the East—and one team only—looks capable of troubling Miami.
The first two games between them have made a fine teaser for the future. The Heat have blown a 13-point lead in Indianapolis, the Pacers have blown a 15-point lead in Miami. What we have here is a full-blown rivalry—one of the league’s freshest and fiercest. It’ll be grand drama to see what happens next.
Pacers vs. Heat, to be continued …
But before they head off in opposite directions, after the frustrating Indiana night in American Airlines Arena, shouldn’t these two new nemeses share a holiday moment together? Certainly. So here it is, with apologies to the man who wrote the original poem.
Twas the week before Christmas, when all through the East
Not a franchise was stirring, ‘cept the Pacers and Heat.
The standings were heavy with teams taking licks
The Celtics and Sixers, the Bulls and the Knicks.
The Pacers were snuggled all safe in the lead
With Larry Bird’s vision of how to succeed.
The house has been packed, with sellouts galore
The upper-deck seats, going lonely no more.
They’re all stopping by, driving autos and trucks
They’re paying to watch, even playing the Bucks.
So maybe the Pacers have buried the past
When tickets-sold rankings meant finishing last.
The bandwagon’s full with promise and glee
These things tend to come, when you’re 20 and 3.
The Pacers have thrived, playing D to the letter
The bench has been good, even Boomer’s looked better.
With a game in Miami, another big test
The latest adventure to see who’s the best.
When they took to the floor, there arose sucha clatter
I looked at my set to see what was the matter.
I moved near the TV to get all the news
Turned up the volume to hear all the boos.
The Heat fans had focused their distaste upon
This team that is making life hard for LeBron.
So what to my wondering eyes should appear
But a rivalry born in the playoffs last year.
This young band of Pacers, so lively and quick
Went pushing the Heat till the series’ last tick.
And now they are back, with purpose complete
No. 1 on the list: Stop Miami’s three-peat.
And so on last Wednesday, Frank’s Pacers they came
And he whistled and shouted and called them by name.
“On Hibbert! On Paul George! On David West, too!
“But not Danny Granger, we’ve yet to see you.
“To the top of the East, to get over that wall.
“We must beat the Heat, with no mercy at all.”
But the champions this night, at the Pacers they threw
Chris Bosh and D-Wade, and the guy with tattoos.
They had sober faces; a deep-rooted will
As the long night unfolded, with looks that could kill.
They said not a word, as the Pacers’ lead grew
But mounted their comeback, as they so often do.
The way the game ended, what the final score said,
Was one more reminder, we have something to dread.
The cheers kept increasing, for the Pacers’ tough swoon
They won’t want to be there, Game 7 in June.
Every game with the Heat feels like Finals or bust
Since home-court advantage seems likely a must.
But this was one loss, the showdown’s just started
Nothing was settled, this night as they parted.
This game got away, there’ll be others to win
They’ll have to be won to get where the Heat’s been.
Frank Vogel’s the coach, and high hopes he’s got lotsa
But next time he’s there, he will pass on the pasta.
They sprang to their bus, and headed back north
There are others to beat, the Nets and so forth.
But I heard them exclaim, to the Heat patriarchs,
“Merry Christmas to you, and we’ll see you in March.”•
Lopresti is a lifelong resident of Richmond and a graduate of Ball State University. He was a columnist for USA Today and Gannett newspapers for 31 years; he covered 34 Final Fours, 30 Super Bowls, 32 World Series and 16 Olympics. His column appears weekly. He can be reached at email@example.com.