With a 97-96 win on Saturday night, the Indiana Pacers improved to 36-10, which is good enough for a three-game lead over the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference. However, the biggest news for the Pacers on Saturday may not have been the win over the Nets, but rather the signing of free agent Andrew Bynum. While the addition may make some Pacer fans scratch their heads, the move is a strategic one that helps them counter the size that Miami has with Greg Oden and Chris Anderson.
Bynum has come a long way from being the youngest player to ever play in the NBA and his time as a champion with the LA Lakers. After being dealt from the Lakers, Bynum would have stops in Philly and Cleveland, before being let go earlier this year by the Bulls after the Cavs traded him away fro salary concerns. But during his tenure with those teams, Bynum has been exposed for his lazy play and ailing knee problems.
However, another big man known for knee problems is Greg Oden. But that didn’t stop the Heat from picking up Oden at the beginning of this season and utilizing him in their game plan. Sure, Oden is far from the expectations that once came from being a number-one overall pick, but his production has been welcome by LeBron and the rest of the Heat. And having a big man like Oden may be just what the Heat needed to battle with the Pacers, who currently look to be the Miami’s top obstacle if they plan on representing the East for the third straight year in the NBA Finals.
So far this year, the Heat and Pacers have split their two meetings, both winning on their own home court. The next time they’ll play one another will be on March 26th, where we could get an idea of how Oden and Bynum match up against each other before the playoffs begin.
Not only did the pickup of Bynum give the Pacers added depth at center for themselves, but it also blocked the Heat from picking up another veteran player with championship experience to join Oden in the paint.
Bynum didn’t play in the Pacers win on Saturday, and it’s likely that he may be used sporadically throughout the remainder of the season until playoff time. However, you can bet that the Pacers will look to get Bynum in just enough shape to where he is ready, and more importantly, healthy, for the Playoffs to matchup with Oden and the Heat.
It’s possible that we could see Bynum in action against the Magic and Hawks this week. And an even better evaluator of his preparedness could come later this week when the Pacers take on the Trailblazers, who have their own core of big men in the paint.
The Pacers are currently an 11/5 favorite to win the NBA Championship. Despite having a better record than the Heat, they aren’t favored above them. However, they are favored ahead of Oklahoma City, who leads the entire West. With only 10 losses on the entire season, the Pacers have proven to be a solid bet all season long.