If experience matters, Heat have an edge on Pacers
By TIM REYNOLDS
MIAMI (AP) Combined, the players in the current Indiana starting lineup have a total of 90 playoff games between them.
So if experience matters for anything in this Miami-Indiana matchup in the Eastern Conference semifinals, then advantage Heat, and in a big way. This is the first trip to the second round for the Pacers since 2005, and of their starters, only George Hill and David West have ever appeared in anything beyond a first-round matchup.
"I know they're a very good team and I know they have a good inside and outside game and have a few guys who can get it going," Wade said Friday. "For the guys that they play, they're all very talented and they're very deep."
The Heat say when they see the Pacers, they don't see an untried group. They see a team that won 42 games, something only San Antonio, Chicago, Oklahoma City and Miami topped in the regular season.
"They've earned it," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "A lot of teams have talked about circumstances and things that have happened during the course of the year, right or wrong. The Pacers earned it. They were the third-best team in the East at the end of the day, fourth-best road record and the fifth-best record in the league. So despite all the different story lines, they earned that right."
Game 1 of the best-of-seven is Sunday in Miami.
The Pacers got off the first shots of this series Thursday, with coach Frank Vogel accusing Miami of manipulating games by flopping - "the biggest flopping team in the NBA," was his claim - when taking charges and forward Danny Granger bristling over the notion that Indiana would be considered an underdog against the reigning East champs.
On Friday, the Heat hit the practice floor for the first time since ousting New York from the first round, opting not to add much to the verbal jousting.
"I'm speechless," Heat forward Udonis Haslem said when told what Vogel said, insisting he was unaware of it all before being told by reporters. "He's entitled to his opinion. A charge is a charge. I take mine. ... If that's the way he feels, that's the way he feels. That's not going to change how we play the game."
If the Heat were upset by it all, they hid it nicely.
And Vogel knows that come Sunday, if his team plays like an inexperienced bunch, the perception of flopping might be the least of his concerns.
"I think the biggest point of emphasis is probably our offensive execution," Vogel said. "Their greatest strength offensively is getting in transition. If we are poor executing our offense and we turn the ball over a lot, or get bad shots, or take bad shots at the rim and allow them to block shots, all that stuff triggers their transition game. If we allow them to get out in transition, we're going to really struggle to guard them."
Only one player on Indiana's current roster - not including Jeff Foster, who's still technically listed but retired in March because of back problems - has appeared in more than 30 playoff games, and that's reserve guard Leandro Barbosa, who has been in 69 postseason contests, 64 of those coming during his time with the Phoenix Suns.
Next most: West has been in 29.
"Don't underestimate the experience that some of those players have that are playing big roles for them right now," Spoelstra said. "The young group that earned their opportunity last year and played well in that first round against Chicago, it's gone a little bit under the radar that they've done a very good job of building that team."
Vogel went eight-deep for the most part against Orlando in the first round, and those eight players have a total of 2,062 points in their postseason careers, Barbosa leading the way with 686.
James has scored 2,717 playoff points. Wade has 2,356. All the Pacers who may play in this series, combined, have 2,392.
It all might make for some interesting numbers for stat-studiers, but probably isn't worth much more than that, Heat forward Shane Battier said. As proof, he merely pointed to the series out West between the Los Angeles Lakers and Denver Nuggets - where one side seemed to have a decided edge in experience, and that matchup is going the distance anyway.
"Look at the Lakers' series," Battier said. "They trump the Nuggets' experience. The Nuggets don't know any better. They're just going out and playing and now the Lakers have their hands full in a Game 7 scenario. So it's tough to paint it with a broad brushstroke."
Like everyone else in the Miami locker room, James didn't take much exception to some of the things said in Indiana on Thursday. And the experience factor, he figures that won't matter much at 3:30 on Sunday afternoon anyway.
"They feel confident and we're a confident bunch," James said. "So it doesn't matter, experience or inexperience. It's a playoff game."
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Updated May 11, 2012