What's On Tap
Indiana Pacers at Miami Heat (ESPN, 8 p.m. ET)
What to Watch
Fresh off a 25-57 season in 2002-03 and a 36-46 season the year before, Pat Riley was hopping off the Miami Heat's runaway train, his critics said, bumping himself upstairs to the club president's office and off the bench as the team's coach.
The suspicions that Riley, the man who led the Los Angeles Lakers to four NBA championships in the 1980s and who turned the New York Knicks and Heat (during the glory years with Alonzo Mourning) into title contenders, was bailing out only increased after the Heat opened the season by losing its first seven games and were a dismal 22-32 at the All Star break.
But the Heat face the Pacers tonight in the sixth game of the Eastern Conference semifinal series when nobody gave them a chance to qualify for the post season. Down three games to two, the Heat are not expected to advance. Regardless of the outcome, Riley's reputation as a savior is preserved.
"Miami plays hard from start to finish, even when they're down double digits," Indiana's Jermaine O'Neal recently told the Indianapolis Star. "That's a sign of their coach [Stan Van Gundy]. He's really been effective. And also [Heat president] Pat Riley's supervision of the team."
Van Gundy is Riley's hand-picked successor, and his deft touch with a young ball club made him a candidate for coach of the year. Riley signed Lamar Odom, the former Los Angeles Clipper suspended twice in the past for failing drug tests, but who has stayed out of trouble this season while averaging 17.1 points, 9.7 rebounds and 4.1 assists.
Riley drafted Dwyane Wade, who finished third behind LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony for the NBA's Rookie of the Year award. He brought in role players, such as Rafer Alston and Udonis Haslem who have revived their careers. Alston has produced career highs in points (10.3) and assists (4.5).
But one question remains: Will Riley yearn to coach again? Stay tuned.
Jeff Foster. The much maligned Pacers center finally threw his considerable weight around in Game 5. The 6-foot-11, 245-pound center, who had scored a total of 11 points in the first four games in the series, exposed the Heat's lack of dominant post players by scoring 20 points and grabbing 16 rebounds.