From the drawers of the Top Secret Fyles:
The Pacers enjoyed the first strike, but will they have the last say against the Heat in the NBA Eastern Conference finals?
Indiana, the Easts top seed, was dominant in Sundays 107-96 win over Miami in Game 1, mainly because the Pacers came out focused and executed its game plan against the two-time defending champion.
Its the third straight season the Easts heavyweights have met in the playoffs, with Miami taking the previous two series. In 2012, the Heat needed six games and a rally to oust the Pacers, and then eliminated its rivals last year in a grueling seven games.
If youre a Heat fan, theres no reason to panic, as long as Miami doesnt lose Game 3 or 4 at home later this week.
Led by swingman Paul George and guard Lance Stephenson, the Pacers are well-balanced, deep and physical. Their counterparts boast a championship pedigree, a pair of superstars (LeBron Jamesand Dwyane Wade though both have amassed plenty of mileage over the past eight seasons) and solid 3-point shooting.
The Pacers have to continue to attack the Heats soft middle, specifically Chris Bosh and Chris Andersen if they want to win the series. Pacers center Roy Hibbert ended his self-induced AWOL in the opener. Bosh, meanwhile, continues to struggle against the Pacers, who have limited him to 34-percent shooting from the field and an average of 9 points per game over the past nine meetings, including playoffs.
When Indiana beats Miami, its because the Pacers are shooting around 50 percent from the field, and the little 4- and 5-foot shots are dropping. That was the case in last seasons playoff meeting when the Pacers won Games 2, 4 and 6.
Miami needs to fine tune its game, after Wade and James combined to score 52 points, including a 23-of-36 from the floor in Game 1. Where was the rest of the team?
The Heat needs to improve on its 3-point game (6-of-23 or 26 percent) and getting to the foul line, where the Pacers outattempted the Heat, 37-15.
The Pacers started the season winning 46 of 59 games through March 2, before going 18-18 the rest of the regular season and the first two rounds of the playoffs. After sleepwalking in their previous postseason series victories against the Hawks and Wizards, the Pacers are FINALLY motivated to dethrone the champs.
Will it happen? That remains to be seen in a potentially terrific series thats destined to go seven games.
n With Canadiens goalie Carey Price out of the NHLs Eastern Conference playoffs because of a bum ankle and spurred by teammate Martin St. Louiss emotions following the untimely death of his mother, the Rangers have to be favorites to make the Stanley Cup finals. Its a question of how many games.
Richie Richs Top 10 rankings in Major League Baseball: 1. Tigers; 2. Athletics: 3. Brewers; 4. Giants; 5. Braves; 6. Orioles; 7. Rockies; 8. Yankees; 9. Cardinals; 10. Angels.
Times sports copy editor Richard Fyle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org