(Image – Kim Klement – USA Today)
With the the 2020 NBA playoffs officially a day old, Malcolm Brogdon and the Indiana Pacers will be kicking off their first round series against the Miami Heat shortly.
Indiana (fourth in the East) and Miami (fifth) have developed a heated rivalry this season. Stemming from a dispute between TJ Warren and Jimmy Butler in the teams’ January meeting, significant tension has arisen between these two squads. Add in the fact that Miami is rumored to be Victor Oladipo’s favored landing spot come 2021 free agency, and this series is more intriguing than your typical 4-5 matchup in the East.
The Heat hold the regular season series 3-1, and considering that the Pacers’ one win came on Friday when both teams were resting the majority of their starters, the Pacers have generally struggled against Miami this season. Of course, a great deal of that can be attributed to the plethora of injuries Indiana is dealing with this year. In fact, Brogdon and Oladipo have only played one game together on the court against Miami.
That said, the Pacers are, for the forseeable future, still going to be without All-Star center Domantas Sabonis. Fortunately, in the bubble, Indiana re-invented itself on offense. Whereas, before, Indiana used a two center starting lineup, they’re now playing small ball as 6’0″ Aaron Holday has taken the 6’11” Sabonis’ spot in the starting lineup. As such, they’re offense is much more fluid than before and has allowed Warren to thrive.
The Heat have gone a mere 3-5 in the bubble, so they’ve been a bit slow out of the gates. But they’re a dynamic offensive team with Bam Adebayo as a bruising scorer down low, shooters like Duncan Robinson and Tyler Herro on the outside, along with scoring guards Dragic, Nunn, and, of course, Butler.
Expectations for Brogdon
Brogdon himself has been more than solid in the bubble, averaging 18.2 PPG and 6 APG while shooting 40% from deep. Against the Heat, he’ll likely matchup with Jimmy Butler on the defensive end, as that’s who he guarded in the teams’ most recent contests. On the other end, Malcolm should see a mix of Duncan Robinson, Kendrick Nunn, and perhaps Butler.
For Brogdon individually, it will be critical that he keeps shooting the ball well from behind the arc. While he’s shot the ball well in Orlando, before the break he was shooting 31% from three-point range on the season. Of course, he’s taken both a higher volume and more difficult shots this season with an expanded role than he played with the Bucks, but that drop from over 42% last season has been steep.
Additionally, staying healthy will be another point of emphasis for Brogdon for however long Indiana’s playoff run lasts. He has missed more than his fair share of gamers due to injury in his four years in the league. So, if he could stay active for the remainder of the season after such a long lay off it would bode well for his long term potential in the league.
Series Prediction: Heat win 4-3.
While the Pacers may be on a roll right now, eventually the loss of Sabonis will catch up to them against a hot-shooting and defensive-minded team like Miami. Unless TJ Warren can find a way to keep averaging thirty-plus points per game, the Pacers are going to struggle to score against Miami’s rigid defensive schemes.