What's On Tap Tonight
Miami Heat at Indiana Pacers (TNT, 9 p.m. ET)
What To Watch
Scoring, steals, rebounding, blocked shots and three-point shooting are just some of the categories where the Pacers dominate the Heat.
The Pacers are probably better bowlers, too.
Indiana's 6-foot-11, 242-pound Jermaine O'Neal, who spends hours in Indianapolis bowling alleys with teammates Al Harrington and Jonathan Bender, is a mismatch for anyone the Heat can put on him. The runner up to Kevin Garnett for the NBA's Most Valuable Player award, is too powerful for the Heat's Lamar Odom (6-10, 225) and too agile for Brian Grant (6-9, 254).
O'Neal, who set a record for being the youngest player to ever check into an NBA game (18 years, 1 month and 22 days) flicks off smaller defenders near the basket. Facing the rim, he can sink 15-foot fade-away jump shots, run the floor and is a good passer.
On the other end of the court is the Pacers' Ron Artest, winner of this season's Defensive Player of the Year award. Should Indiana coach Rick Carlisle put Artest on Miami rookie guard Dwyane Wade, it could cripple the Heat's offense.
Wade led Miami in assists (5.6) and averaged 15.4 points in the Heat's first round victory over New Orleans. But Artest is one of the league's best at shutting down marquee players, which Wade is fast becoming.
In the first round sweep of the Celtics, Artest pestered Celtics' all star forward Paul Pierce into 26-of-76 shooting (34 percent). Artest is a big reason why Indiana held opponents to an average of 85.6 points during the regular season.
Indiana also has wily three-point sharpshooter Reggie Miller and one of the best benches in the NBA. All that totals up to a short series.
Last Night's Big Winner (Team)
San Antonio Spurs. Tony Parker darted past Gary Payton and most of the other Lakers on his way to scoring 30 points in his team's 95-85 victory over Los Angeles. While many people in Los Angeles predicted that Lakers' coach Phil Jackson would find a way to fence off Parker after he scored 20 points in Game 1, the Frenchman only improves his performance in Game 2. Spurs shoot 52.2 percent.
Last Night's Big Loser (Team)
Los Angeles Lakers. What does it mean for the Lakers to fall behind 2-0 to the Spurs, to see its bench and two of its starters, Karl Malone and Gary Payton, become ineffectual? It means that even former Laker greats start picking the Spurs.
"Ultimately, while my heart is in Los Angeles, I think San Antonio right now has a better basketball team," Gail Goodrich, a guard on the 1972 NBA champion Lakers' team, told NBA.com.
Like a slight of hand trick, all the squabbling, and threats to leave and backbiting on the Lakers distracted attention from the reality: that beyond Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal, the Lakers possess little depth.
Last Night's Big Winner (Player)
Parker. Opens up San Antonio's offense by penetrating and triggering fast break. Spurs score 18 fast break points to Los Angeles' 4.
Last Night's Big Loser (Player)
Gary Payton. For a third straight game, Payton fails to score in double figures. He appears to have lost a step, or two, or three, as Parker zooms by him most of the night. Jackson now appears to know what he was doing by pulling Payton late in games toward the end of the season. Derek Fisher or Kareem Rush could see more minutes.