Tony Donohue and I get together in the Man Room for a special preview as the Indiana Pacers get set to battle Orlando in the NBA Playoffs. We give our thoughts on the team, match ups, and our predictions for the series. Take a listen and let us know what you think on Twitter @thadvandeventer and @TonyD1070.
Archive for April 28, 2012
It’s Playoff Time Indiana
Pacers Get Set to Face Magic
The NBA regular season is wrapping up and the Indiana Pacers are getting set for the Playoffs that will start this Saturday. The Pacers secured the number three seed in the Eastern Conference and will take on the Orlando Magic. The Pacers will host the first two games of their playoff series which is a big step forward for the franchise as they will finish the regular season with the fifth best record in the league. Now lets take a look at the upcoming match up with Orlando.
Indiana has been the hottest team in the league the final month of the season. They went 12-3 in the month of April and without question are playing their best basketball of the season. Led by the veteran leadership of David West, the Pacers are revving up for the Playoffs. West looks the healthiest he has all season long and at the right time. Along with West, Danny Granger has picked up his play down the stretch which gives Indiana the added inside-out scoring combination. Balanced scoring is the key to the Pacers as they have so many guys that can contribute on the offensive end (six guys average in double figures Granger, Hibbert, West, George, Barbosa, Collison).
The Pacers were just 1-3 against Orlando in the regular season including two home losses. In the three losses, Orlando had an average margin of victory of 12 points. The Magic shoot more three pointers per game (27.1 3PA) than any other team and shoot it well at 37.7%. Orlando’s Head Coach Stan Van Gundy likes to spread his offense out to both give his players room to drive but also to kick it out for three.
This, however, will be a much different looking Magic team that will travel to Indy as star center Dwight Howard (20.6 ppg, 14.5 rpg) is out after having back surgery. Orlando becomes a perimeter oriented team without Howard and that can be effective as well as they can shoot. Indiana will have to limit Ryan Anderson, Jameer Nelson, Jason Richardson, and J.J. Redick from the outside as all of them shoot better than 36% from long range.
Another thing to consider is the possible positive affect of not having Howard there. It has been well documented the interesting season Superman had. Would he stay in Orlando or go to another team (LA, NY, NJ, DAL) was the big issue for the Magic for much of the season. Then he decided to sign a one year extension to stay, but still had a rift with Van Gundy where it was suggested that Howard asked for Van Gundy to be fired. Now, Howard is officially out and the migraine he caused could have left with him. With Howard out, does the team band together to play for each other as they try to make some noise in the playoffs?
Howard’s absence though should allow West, Hibbert, Hansbrough, and Amundson some room to operate in the paint. The Pacers front line should be able to dominate the glass. West and Hibbert will have the opportunity to get post position and not worry about Howard’s shot blocking presence. The biggest key in this series may be the play of the Pacers’ bench which has really taken off lately. Even if the Magic are making a number of three’s, the Pacers can offset that with the scoring punch of their second unit with Barbosa (11.1 ppg) and Collison (10.4 ppg, 4.8 apg). Not to mention the pure energy that Amundson and Hansbrough bring.
Overall, the Pacers match up with Orlando is interesting. It will be key for the blue and gold to close out on shooters. They need to make the Magic put the ball on the floor instead of catch and shooting. Indiana will need to exploit their size advantage in the post, which should in turn open up some space for George and Granger on the wings.
My prediction is that the Pacers win the series in five games. Although they have struggled against Orlando this season, Indiana will continue their hot play and win their first playoff series since 2005. I feel like the confidence level of this team is at a season high. They are playing well together and have the tools to challenge in the playoffs this year.
Follow me on Twitter @thadvandeventer.
Here is a video of my favorite Pacers-Magic playoff moment of all time. Smits Happens!!!
I am hanging out in the Man Room by myself this week so I blabber on about the Pacers as they get set for the Playoffs this weekend. I also look ahead to the NFL Draft and what the Colts will do after selecting Andrew Luck #1 overall. Take a listen and let me know what you think on Facebook or on Twitter @IndySportsCrew or @thadvandeventer.
Also as we get ready for some Pacers Playoff action take a look at this video from Game 6 of the 1994 Eastern Conference Semi-Finals. This clip will make more sense after you listen to the podcast and my thoughts on this year’s Pacers team.
Colts Draft Thoughts
The NFL Draft starts this Thursday night and as everyone knows it will be a huge night for the future of the Indianapolis Colts franchise. Andrew Luck will be announced as the new QB for the Horseshoes. All Colts fans hope that Luck can bring the kind of success Peyton Manning did when he was taken with the first overall pick fourteen years ago, but what is equally as important is how Indy does Friday and Saturday during draft rounds 2-7.
The overall talent level of this team is lacking and has been for the past few seasons. They were able to patch some holes at Obviously in a league that is predicated on offense, the success of Luck is critical. Expecting him to perform highly with underwhelming talent though would be hard to fathom. That is why it is so important for GM Ryan Grigson and Head Coach Chuck Pagano not only to draft players to fill certain needs but to also just draft as much talent as possible. This would be the time to take a page from former Colts Vice President Bill Polian and draft by the thought of taking the best available player.
Yes, I understand that some positions need more help than others. I think the Colts will try to focus as much as possible on the defensive side of the ball especially with the change to the 3-4 defense. Help in the secondary is needed and some depth at linebacker will be an issue to address. It is important however to try and stockpile the best and most ready to play talent as you can. Something that could possibly help early in the draft is that the Colts will be drafting at the start of each round instead of at the end. Those spots could give them the chance in rounds 2-4 to get some really quality players.
It has been mentioned that given the possibility the Colts may trade up using their 34th overall pick to a late first round pick to take Stanford TE Coby Fleener. I believe this would be a good move to make if it presents itself in the right situation. Indy should not trade up too high for Fleener but if he falls down to the twenties then making a run at him would be wise. Fleener and Luck already have a connection that they displayed on The Farm inPalo Alto plus with Dallas Clark and Jacob Tamme gone help is needed at tight end.
Other than that move I am not as in tune with mock drafts as others to go in depth about specific players that could be there for the Colts in the later rounds. Honestly, I don’t get that into mock drafts anyway because one or two teams make surprising picks and all of that goes out the window in a hurry. What I will say is that the Colts have a great opportunity and a great task ahead of them this week. Indy will need to focus and choose wisely (as Indiana Jones did in the Last Crusade) to build this organization back up. Talent and depth are the keys to make this a successful draft for the Colts next year and for the future. This will be the next step in the process of getting the Colts back to the top of the AFC and NFL.
Follow Thad on Twitter @thadvandeventer.
IndianapolisColts 2012 Draft Picks
Round Pick (Overall)
1 1 (1)
2 2 (34)
4 2 (97)
5 1 (136)
5 35 (170)
6 36 (206)
7 1 (208)
7 7 (214)
7 46 (253)
Entry List Sets Stage for Month of May
We are just a few weeks from Opening Day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the first step of getting to practice days at IMS is the entry list, which was released today. J.R. Hildebrand who will make his 2nd start in next month’s race was the first driver to officially turn in his entry for the race. Thirty four cars with thirty confirmed drivers were on the entry list.
Three former champions of the Indy 500 are entered, including Dario Franchitti, Helio Castroneves and Scott Dixon, but one more could be confirmed over the next few days. Rumor say, if the money is in place, 2004 Indy 500 winner Buddy Rice, who returned to the speedway last year for the first time in three years, could pilot the #21 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevy. If Buddy is confirmed, that puts the count at 31 drivers.
Seven rookies have been confirmed that will attempt to claim Rookie of The Year honors. They include Josef Newgarden and Brian Claussen who will team up for Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing, Rubens Barrichellos, Wade Cunningham, Katherine Legge, James Jakes and Simon Pagenaud. Jean Alessi could be added to the list of rookies on the roster for this year’s 500.
John Oreovicz of ESPN.com raised a valid point today over Twitter. Oreovicz states, will Indy Car have one car bumped from the field and go home, or will they expand the 500 field past 33 cars so all 34 entered earn a spot, the last time this happened, 2 cars had identical speeds in 1997 and 35 cars started the race. There are pros and cons to both. If all 34 cars are in the field, it eliminates “Bump Day” in which last year saw great drama up to the final gun on the last qualifying day. If all 34 cars are in, you don’t risk a full time competitor to miss out on the race and allows all cars and engines to partake in the race. There certainly will be no ride buying this year.
The field is pretty competitive and based off of the entry list; twelve to thirteen drivers could be in line to sip the milk after 500 miles on May 27th. A few things that also jump off the page is Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing bringing two rookie drivers both seeking sponsorship. How will Rubens Barrichellos perform in his first oval test and how far behind exactly is Lotus as a few teams that are under contract with the engine supplier have asked to switch engines. Indy will be interesting and all these questions will be answered.
Lots of Pacers and Colts talk this week in the Man Room. The Coach and I go over the white hot Pacers as they are 10-1 so far in April and getting primed for the Playoffs. Then we look ahead at the upcoming NFL Draft and what the Colts will do. Remember to follow us on Twitter @IndySportsCrew, @thadvandeventer, and @C_K_42 to keep the chatter on going.
So Much Drama in the LBC
Will Power earned his second victory of the season, and the third for Penske Racing, on Sunday for the 38th running of the Long Beach Grand Prix. Power started from the 12th position, though he was the fastest car in qualifying. This was due to the new rules in which if a team changes an engine before 1,200 miles they will be penalized 10 positions from their qualifying spot. Power however wasn’t the only driver penalized, as 11 Chevy engines were changed before the 1,200 mile minimum. Chevrolet made this decision after James Hinchcliffe blew an engine during a test session at Sonoma on Monday. The fear that incorrectly calibrated engines could affect each of the Chevy teams, lead to the drastic decision to replace them all.
The penalties incurred by the Chevrolet teams provided an interesting starting grid to say the least with rookie Josef Newgarden on the outside of row one. On the first turn the rookie went for a spectacular pass on the outside of defending IndyCar champion Dario Franchitti. Dario had other ideas, gave very little room to Newgarden, and forced him into the tire barriers. On the first lap it may have been a questionable move, but if Franchitti gives him some room, Newgarden makes that pass without question. On the lap five restart from the Newgarden caution, Justin Wilson made an incredible pass around turn one to take an early lead, but almost as soon as the race went back to green Marco made what I thought was a questionable pit stop. This pit stop on lap 8 would foreshadow how this race would come down to pit strategy and fuel mileage. Wilson led until lap 19, when Takuma Sato took over the lead. Shortly after Sato took the lead, a collision between two legendary names in Indycar provided the best quotes of the weekend. On lap 23 Marco Andretti tried a maneuver around Graham Rahal in which Andretti drove over Rahal’s rear tire and went airborne. After the accident Marco stated,
“That was our stint to make hay and we were trying to do so,” Andretti said. “It’s one thing blocking but it’s another thing chopping, and that was a chop. I’m lucky I didn’t get upside down, I could have been killed.”
While Rahal claimed,
“He wasn’t going to make the corner no matter what; obviously those pods didn’t do the job. He’s had a lot of rides like that, unfortunately he went straight over the top of us; the back of our car is destroyed.”
Rahal responding when told Marco said he was “chopped”
“What’s Marco’s last name?” Rahal asked. “I’ve said enough.”
Hopefully this altercation is a budding rivalry between two of the most flamboyant drivers in the sport. Not only are these two opinionated and talented, but they are the only two names still left on the track from the golden days of IndyCar. The sport has struggled for years to find a true rivalry, but these two will need to battle for leads, and championships before it is recognized by the general sports fan and not just IndyCar enthusiasts.
After that caution ended on lap 29, much of the race was dominated by Simon Pagenaud who led 26 total laps. Other leaders included Sato who led 16 laps, Justin Wilson and Will power lead 15 laps. Briscoe lead five laps while Franchitti and Ryan Hunter-Reay each lead 4 laps. Toward the end of the race I was really thinking it would be Sato’s race to lose w/ Power low on fuel, and Pagenaud having to pit with just nine laps to go. Little did I know that Will Power would be able to get better gas mileage in his IndyCar than I get in my passenger car. Seriously though, how did he get his fuel to stretch so much further than anyone else? Power only made 2 pit stops on the day, and during the last few laps was able to push his pace to avoid the hard charging Simon Pagenaud, who made 3 stops. Leaving the LBC Power now has a narrow points lead over his teammate Helio Castroneves. The next race for IndyCar is in Helio’s native country of Brazil on April 29th. Power is the defending champion for the Brazil race where he led 32 of 55 laps. Coming out of Long Beach IndyCar got a much needed ratings boost receiving a .35, up 20% from last year’s rating. Hopefully the ratings boost isn’t solely due to NASCAR having a Saturday night race, and is more of a result from fans tuning into see the most entertaining brand of auto racing in the world.
1. Will Power
2. Simon Pagenaud