Work in Sports
Pacers Team Report
Indiana takes this job of underdog -- and loves it
Posted: Tuesday June 06, 2000 08:59 PM
By John Donovan, CNNSI.com
LOS ANGELES -- Make no mistake: The Indiana Pacers know just how big of an underdog they are in these NBA Finals.
And, boy, are they loving it.
In the pre-series maneuvering for any edge possible, the Pacers grabbed hungrily onto the role of underdog Tuesday and displayed it proudly, right next to the "They're old and tired" and "This is their last chance" trinkets on their motivational mantelpiece.
Oh. The lack of respect thing is up there, too, of course.
Whether any of those will make any difference whatsoever against the mighty Los Angeles Lakers ... well, the Pacers must figure it's worth a shot.
"We're here to win this thing," point guard Mark Jackson puffed in the Pacers' first meeting with the masses of media here for the Finals, just in case anyone thought that the Pacers were here to roll over and hand the darn thing to the Lakers. "It's an honor to be here, but we're here to win this thing."
The Lakers are, no doubt about it, the favorites to win the NBA title, as they have been all season. They had, after all, the best record in the league this season, and in the past 20 years, 11 of the teams that finished the regular season with the league's best record went on to win the title.
That's not exactly a sure thing, to be sure. But it's close enough for the Pacers.
"It's a great position to be in," said Jackson of being a U-dog. "I said the other day: It comes down to the two best teams in the league. We're David and they're Goliath, and we brought a lot of slingshots."
Let's hope they have a few stones for those slingshots, too.
Strategy of the Day
Oh, c'mon. Guess.
The talk of the day was How to Stop Shaquille. Yeah. That's possible.
Indiana coach Larry Bird is liable to try some one-on-one work against the Lakers' powerful center, but that doesn't seem likely to work. So expect lots of double-teams from the Pacers, though O'Neal isn't likely to see the swarming double-, triple- and everything-and-the-bench-teams that Portland employed in the Western Conference finals.
"I'm going to need help," Pacers center Rik Smits said without a hint of the humor that should accompany such a whopper of an understatement. "He moves so well. Maybe the best I've ever seen."
There are a few schools of thought on how to at least make O'Neal work for his points. One is to get Smits, or sharpshooter Sam Perkins, shooting well from the outside so O'Neal has to work on the defensive end.
One is to send people at him early in hopes of getting him in foul trouble.
Maybe the best one: Pray. A lot.
Quote of the Day
Jackson, on having a sense of urgency because this may be the last trip to the Finals for the aging Pacers: "Nah, I don't know. People said that last year: 'A sense of urgency.' You never know. This could be [Indiana backup] Jonathan Bender's last chance in the Finals and he's, like, 12 years old."