Vogel can lean on assistants to speak to the moment
[UPDATE 7:42 PM]:
Frank Vogel said pregame that he had each of his three assistants briefly address the team after shootaround.
Their message: “Manage your adrenaline. It’s going to feel different. This is their moment, it’s not about anybody else. It’s not about the media, or your families, or coaches. It’s about their moment. Their time to shine.”
Game 7 – win or go home.
It’s all new territory for this Pacers team. This is what the players relish. Game 7s are where teams are tested with all the pressure on the line, champions emerge and memories are made.
For the Pacers, backup center Ian Mahinmi, who’s averaged less than nine minutes per game in the series, is the only Pacer to have played in a conference final (and NBA Finals). He can briefly speak to experience but not even Mahinmi has played in a Game 7 — so that’s where Frank Vogel’s coaching staff can come in. When Larry Bird, the team president at the time, removed the interim tag and named Vogel the team’s head coach in the summer of 2011, he wanted to make sure coach surrounded himself with an experienced staff that complemented each other well.
Associate head coach Brian Shaw has five NBA rings – three as a player, two as an assistant coach – all with the Los Angeles Lakers. Assistant Jim Boylen coached three Games 7s while on the bench with the Houston Rockets for two two titles, in 1994 and 1995. And longtime Pacers assistant Dan Burke was with the team in the 2000 Finals.
Coach Vogel will fire his team up, likely write “BE ENCOURAGED!!!” on the dry erase board once again and play to his team’s strengths. It’s also important not to deviate from the routine. Routine has become a buzzword for Paul George. He’s all about it. While it is a Game 7 with the right to move on to the NBA Finals on the line, they have to stick with what got them here. A few words — or video clips — from Mahinmi and the assistant coaches to put the player’s in the right state of mind could only help.
Playing in a Game 7 is nothing new for these Heat. They were in this same situation last season in the conference finals. The Boston Celtics had a 3-2 lead and the Heat won Game 6 to force one last game. The Heat then won the game, the series, and the the NBA Finals over Oklahoma City in five games.
Tonight’s game will be Indiana’s sixth Game 7 all-time, but just the first since 2005 when they beat Boston in the first round. Coach Burke is the only current coach – or player – still with the team (though radio analyst Austin Croshere is still part of the traveling party). Three of their previous five Game 7s were in the Eastern Conference finals – New York (1994), Orlando (1995), Chicago (1998), and every one of them was on the road.
The Heat won 66 games in the regular season, including 27 straight, for home court advantage throughout the playoffs. In all-time NBA history of Game 7s, home teams are 89-23 (79.5 percent).
The Pacers have a big opportunity in front of them tonight and every little advantage matters. They’ll be ready.