NBA Series Picks: Pacers vs. Heat Odds and Preview
by Robert Ferringo - 5/21/2013
It was almost exactly one year ago today when the Miami Heat’s Big 3 was on the ropes.
Indiana was ahead 2-1 in the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals and were leading 54-46 at home in Game 4. There were putting enough pressure on LeBron James to make the self-proclaimed King do exactly what he had done time and time again in such situations: choke.
However, James answered the bell. He and Dwyane Wade combined for 70 points, 27 rebounds and 15 assists while leading the Heat to a comeback win. That turned the tide for Miami en route to James’ first-ever championship.
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The Eastern Conference Finals begin on Wednesday in South Beach with Indiana traveling to take on Miami in a 2013 rematch of last year’s series. Once again, the stakes couldn’t be any clearer: winner goes on to the NBA Finals for a shot at another ring and the loser is facing a long, bitter offseason.
Miami is a solid 8.0-point favorite in Game 1 at Sportsbook.ag. The total is set at 183.0.
The Heat are the dominant favorites in this series with the odds at -700 for them to advance to the NBA Finals. Indiana is fetching +500 for those bold enough to take a stab at the Pacers to pull a historic upset.
So is there any way in hell that Indiana can take down the Heat?
But that doesn’t mean that this won’t be a series. These two teams have been the best clubs in a pathetic Eastern Conference all season long. And after last year’s blood feud – and three contentious games this year – the Heat and Pacers are both bracing themselves for another slugfest.
The Pacers choked out New York over the weekend, beating the Knicks 4-2 in a series that Indiana controlled after their Game 1 road win. Stealing home court advantage turned out to be crucial, as Indiana went 3-0 at home against the Knicks to move to 6-0 straight up and against the spread so far this postseason in Indiana.
Miami was finally able to swat away a pesky Chicago team in their conference semifinal. Miami won three of those games by an average of 23 points per game. But they dropped Game 1 and nearly lost Game 5 as well, overcoming a six-point fourth quarter deficit while winning just 94-91.
I am not going to lie: I thought it was stunning that the Heat struggled against the Bulls at all. Chicago was playing with about half of their team, and the guys they did have were either exhausted or injured. That Game 1 loss was one of the more stunning upsets I can remember in the last few playoffs. And I found it odd that Miami struggled so badly when they finally had a chance to close out the series.
Those struggles offer the only ray of hope that Indiana has. While they did take two games in last year’s series, they also had some personnel advantages. Chris Bosh didn’t suit up for the Heat, while all-star forward Danny Granger led the Pacers. Bosh is 100 percent and playing well for Miami this time while Granger has been out for the year with a knee injury.
Further, Indiana forward David West has been dealing with a leg strain and is not 100 percent.
As a bettor, I am squarely in the Heat’s camp. I have a slew of futures plays that need them to cut down the nets and make it back-to-back NBA titles. In my opinion, their championship is inevitable. However, as a fan I know that a lot of people are still hoping beyond hope that James and the Heat come unglued.
For that to happen, Indiana is going to have to do four things. First, they have to continue to dominate at home.
The Pacers are unbeaten in the playoffs and were one of the best home teams in the NBA this year. They beat Miami twice at Conseco Fieldhouse, and Indiana will have to win all three of their games there this year.
Second, Indiana needs to focus on Wade and smother the shooters.
Wade hasn’t been himself for the past two months and is still bothered by a lingering knee injury. Wade is averaging just 13 points per game in the postseason and has not looked like the stud player we know he is. Indiana matches up well with Wade, being able to throw active perimeter defenders like George Hill and Lance Stephenson at him. Indiana has to keep focus on Wade and keep him out of rhythm.
James is going to get his points and do his thing. He’s unstoppable. But the key to beating the Heat is to not let guys like Shane Battier, Ray Allen and Norris Cole get good looks to make backbreaking threes. Let James average 50 per game. But limit everyone else.
Third, the Pacers have to shoot the ball better.
Indiana is the No. 1 defense, statistically, in the NBA. But Miami is No. 6. They can lock down on the Pacers and end this series quickly. Indiana is making just 42 percent of its shots and shooting just 30.8 percent from three-point land. Two years ago Chicago couldn’t make enough threes to close out the Heat. If someone doesn’t get hot from deep – here’s looking at you, Gerald Green and D.J. Augustin – the Pacers are going to be in trouble.
Finally, someone for Indiana has to pretend to be a superstar.
Indiana couldn’t beat Miami last year because James could take over games and no one for the Pacers could. Someone – be it Paul George, George Hill or even underrated David West – needs to step up and become the go-to guy. Whether that player is good enough to be The Guy is irrelevant. But if Indiana is going to have a chance to advance they need someone to step to the forefront and at least try to piggyback this group.
All that said, my Eastern Conference Finals prediction is pretty easy: Miami in six.
Read more articles by Robert Ferringo
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