Who Should We Root For: Miami Heat or Indiana Pacers?

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Photo: Mike Fender, The Indianapolis Star

The Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers are making the New York Knicks look bad, and it’s not fair or fun. The Knicks have been on summer vacation for about two weeks now and I’m still a bit petulant about the whole thing. The Knicks were supposed to reach the Conference Finals, sweep the Heat and then win the NBA championship; that was the plan. And now, what – a series of exciting, passionate basketball between two highly functioning teams is tied at 2-2? Yuck.

Since the Pacers eliminated the Knicks, I’ve debated with myself over who to root for. I, like many Knicks fans, despise both teams due to both historical and current precedents. Both the Pacers and Heat have shared moments in the spotlight eliminating the biggest market team in front of millions of national viewers. As an overall NBA fan, though, extending beyond rooting for the Knicks, I find it hard to just watch a series without pulling for a certain team. The problem is, however, that rooting for either of these teams feels like choosing between Freddy or Jason (Freddy), Oreo cookie versus cream (cream), velociraptors or a T-Rex (raptor).

The following breakdown may put you a bit more at ease in deciding who to root for and why:

Why We Should Root for: Indiana Pacers

- The Indiana Pacers are the underdogs, plain and simple. This season was the first year in the Miami Heat’s convergence that they finished with the #1 overall seed. However, despite finishing second in the East the previous two teams, they’re the only team to make it out of the East since they spawned their Big 3 in 2010. The Indiana Pacers, meanwhile, have worked hard to become merely a top four team in the Eastern Conference, and now, minus three big superstars, are pushing the Heat to their limits.

- “Built Not Bought.” Such is the claim of many Pacers fans. Whereas the Miami Heat have formed their core through the free agent signings of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, plus surrounding signings of Shane Battier, Mike Miller, Chris Andersen, etc., the Pacers have built their team through the Draft and through trades. Paul George, Roy Hibbert, Lance Stephenson, Tyler Hansbrough, Danny Granger (a non-factor this year) were all drafted. Meanwhile, George Hill was acquired in a draft-and-trade in 2011, and their biggest free agent signings have been David West and DJ Augustin. This Pacers team is as home-grown as the wheat that flanks the flat-lands of the state. (Does Indiana actually grow wheat? *shrug*).

- Nitty, gritty, dirty defense. Yeah, the Miami Heat play defense, but not the way these Pacers do. The Pacers suffocate the perimeter, deny open shots, grant inefficient ones, and jam the paint. It’s really tough to the beat these Pacers unless a player or two becomes unreasonable hot and knocks down every open deep two or mid-range jumper granted to him. The Pacers don’t like when players try to score at the rim, and they’re not afraid to clobber a player that threatens their elite defense. For all of the ’90s Knicks fans out there, the Pacer’s rough-and-tough style should evoke fond memories of the Knicks of yesteryears.

- “I’m bored of the Heat!” Me too, pal! El Heat have been to the championship the last two years and they won the darn trophy last season! This story was interesting for a little while, but by Season Three, the writers need to mix it up.

- ‘They beat us!’ Technically, the Pacers pulled off the upset over our Knicks. If the Knicks are going to lose to a team, it should be the eventual Eastern Conference champions, no? After all, nobody likes to say, “It was a good season! We just lost to the team that lost to the team that won the Eastern Conference!” No. We want to believe we lost to the best team in the conference.

Why We Should Root For: Miami Heat

- “Those yellow jerks just beat us!” Yup, while it’d be nice to say the Knicks were eliminated by the best team in the East, it also feels wrong to cheer for the Knicks’ assassins. Why should I wish them success after they so rudely denied ours?

- The Miami Heat don’t have Lance Stephenson. Seriously, have you ever watched that guy? Blech. Stephenson is an exciting, talented, young player, but he just makes the blood boil. He looks like a stockier version of Chris Bosh — part raptor, part fish — with eyes that look like he’d steal the remote and change the channel while you were up getting some cheese and crackers! His Game 6 performance against the Knicks was astounding and befuddling and infuriating all at the same time. He celebrates baskets like they’re each his 100th point of the game. Go sit the next few plays out, would ya, Lance?

- The Heat are more fun! They play faster, they shoot better, and they have these two upcoming stars on the team that are quite fun to watch. Lebanon James and Dwight Wane. Seriously, look out for these fellas – they’re on the rise! Sure, the Indiana Pacers play such efficient, old-school basketball that snobs have to like ‘em, right? Yeah, while you’re smoking that wooden pipe and listening to cassette tapes, grandpa, I’m going to root for the basketball revolution that is the Heatz.

- The Heat are so detestable that it makes it fun to root against them. Their star power is a draw to the screen, and they make any team they face look like the protagonists. Imagine the evil Heatles playing the cute, old San Antonio Spurs for all of the marbles. Nice try, Miami, but I’m rooting for Tim DUNKIN’ and Manu EURO-STEP-nobili and TOO-QUICK Tony Parker!

Conclusion:

We should root for… well, it looks like the Pacers because I have five bullet points to the Heat’s four. But WAIT! *record scratch* Here’s why we shouldn’t root for either:

- The Heat and Pacers stink and I don’t like them and they’re playing longer than the Knicks! BOOO!

- I’m rooting for the Spurs either way

- Here’s a Pablo Prigioni mix: