The #2 Miami Heat will take on the #1 Indiana Pacers in game one of the highly anticipated Eastern Conference Finals (Sunday, 3:30pm EST on ABC). The two teams split their season series this year with both winning two games at home and losing two on the road.
It will be the second time in as many years that the Heat and Pacers have faced off in the conference finals. Last year, Miami defeated Indiana in seven games en route to their second consecutive NBA Championship. They will look to so the same this year.
The Pacers however, who have not won a championship since 1973, are hungry. Last year’s seven game defeat was tough to swallow and it is one that will not have been forgotten by the players. Nothing short of a series win is acceptable even if beating the Heat is easier said than done.
How They Got Here
Indiana Pacers – The Pacers needed seven games to get past the Atlanta Hawks and even then they didn’t make it look easy. It was only after winning the last two games, both of which were elimination games that Indiana seemed to find their groove. They defeated the eighth seeded Hawks by a total of 25 points in those final wins. In the second round, Indiana needed six games to defeat the Washington Wizards. Most of these games were close but again Indiana finished strong with a 13-point win in game six.
Miami Heat – The Pacers almost played the maximum 14 games in the first two rounds but to the inverse, Miami almost played the minimum of eight. The Heat easily dispatched the Charlotte Bobcats in four games, only one of which saw Miami win by less than 11 points. In the second series against the Brooklyn Nets, Miami quickly took a 2-0 lead before losing game three at Brooklyn. The Heat then won the next two to book a trip to see the Pacers in the ECF.
(IND) Paul George vs (MIA) Lebron James
Both the Pacers and the Heat have a roster composed of big name all-stars and some of the most talented players in the game. Leading the way of course are Lebron James for Miami and Paul George (pictured above) for Indiana.
James has unsurprisingly been Miami’s best offensive weapon this postseason. He has scored no fewer than 22 points in a game, has been the team’s highest scorer in each individual game and is averaging 30 points in the team’s nine games. James’ most notable performance came in the fourth game of the Nets series when the superstar scored 49 points to lead his team in their 14-point victory.
George has also been the best for the Pacers and has done it both with points and rebounds. Indiana’s star led the team in scoring in all but two of their first round games and led in rebounding in three of those games as well. The 24-year-old George is averaging 21.9 points overall this postseason in addition to close to nine rebounds and over two steals a game.
Miami has an advantage in the matchup here. James is a prolific scorer and has also been more consistent and has gotten stronger as the playoffs have gone on. George is a good player and his ability to crash the boards has come in handy. That said, his scoring has been up and down just like the Pacers. He is hit or miss and against the defending champion Heat, he will need to be hit 100% of the time. I just don’t see that happening.
Home Sweet Home?
There is a reason why home field advantage is in fact an advantage. This year, the Pacers won a league-high 56 games including 35 of 41 at home. Miami, winners of 54, also did exceedingly well at home. The Heat won 32 of 41 in the confines of Miami.
Needless to say, both of these teams have taken care of business where it matters most, at least in terms of the regular season. The playoffs however have been a different animal as Miami has yet to lose a home playoff game but the Pacers have already lost four.
Indiana will have home field advantage but will it be enough and will it even matter? The Pacers have not utilized their edge this postseason and have actually lost their four home games by an average of just over 11 points a game.
Miami Heat at Indiana Pacers Betting Picks
This is going to be a contentious series between two teams that frankly don’t like each other very much. There is a lot of bad blood and considering how last year’s finals turned out, a lot of redeeming on the Pacers’ end.
Indiana for what its worth though has struggled this postseason. They have not looked like the team that beat the Heat twice this year and that finished with the league’s best record. Their overall play has in general been very underwhelming save for maybe George’s performance and the bench output of guard CJ Watson.
Miami meanwhile has looked fresh and just as poised to win yet another title. They have coasted to the finals and the only question facing their talented squad is health. They have one of the best starting lineups in the league, a much better bench and if fully healthy, they are a better team than Indiana.
Fortunately, Indiana does match up well against Miami. Their team is in fact designed for this very series. They have developed the speed, the strength and most importantly the size to go toe-to-toe with Lebron and company. The question is though if their struggles are going to be compounded, making this matchup advantage a moot point.
All of that said, earlier in this postseason I picked the Pacers to lose a home game against the Hawks and the team made me regret it. So in this game one, I have to go Indiana. They are coming off one of their better playoff games of the year and at home, they still have to be considered the favorites in my book. The sportsbooks disagree with me and make the Pacers the outsiders on the spread so that starts to look an attractive wager.