Last updated May 26th, 2013
After unceremoniously being ousted by the Miami Heat in the first round of the 2012 Eastern Conference playoffs, the Indiana Pacers are optimistic that they can avoid the same fate in 2013 (Game 3: 8.30pm ET, Sunday).
While the teams and most of the players are the same, the situations are different as this year the winning team will go on to play in the NBA Finals. Also different is the fact that this season, the Pacers have been the dominant force. While Miami was the better regular season team by far, only losing 16 of a total 82 games, the Pacers entered the series with a 2-1 head-to-head record against the Heat in 2013.
In these three games, the Heat scored a total of 271 points while Indiana scored 280. Overall the four games played between these two Eastern Conference rivals were not exactly closely contested either as the winning team played to a margin of victory of at least 10 points.
So far in the first two games of this playoff series, the teams have played very close and competitive contests with both games decided by a total of five points.
The Heat began the series by finding themselves down with just seconds to go. Forward Lebron James (pictured) hit the winning basket as the clock expired, giving Miami a 103-102 victory. Indiana evened up the series with a fourth quarter that saw them outscore the Heat by just two, but it was ultimately enough for a four-point victory.
Because of some of the early tensions and fireworks that have characterized this series, heading back to Indiana for the next three games could provide pivotal swing in favor of the hometown Pacers. Carrying momentum, Indiana will have a chance to close out Miami at home, where the Pacers have been excellent with a record of 31-10 in the regular season and an undefeated 6-0 mark in the postseason.
Let’s look at some of the factors that could play into the game three match up.
Indiana’s Size Is Causing Miami Trouble
When a team only loses 16 games, it is fair to say that there weren’t really many things that caused them trouble. That said, the Pacers, who are one of very few teams to actually have a winning record against the Heat in 2013, have this record for a reason. Indiana’s size has caused Miami a good deal of trouble.
Boasting some of the best around the basket ability, a lot of the Pacers success this season has come from the fact that Indiana is the best team in the league when it comes to getting second chance opportunities on possessions. As far as NBA rankings go, Indiana is number one in rebounds per game averaging an incredible 45.9 split among both offensive and defensive boards.
When the teams met for the first time this season, Indiana outrebounded Miami 55-36 in the rebound category. Indiana also incredibly pulled down 22 offensive rebounds to just seven for Miami. And against a team like the Heat, who rank 5th in the NBA in points per game with 102.9, any second chance opportunities for the Pacers mean less scoring chances for the Heat.
So while the formula to beat the Heat for many teams involves limiting the production of Lebron James’ role players, for the Pacers, it is just about doing what they do best and allowing their size to control the tempo of the game.
Also worth note is that Miami is ranked 30th in the NBA with an average of just 38.6 rebounds per game. So for as good as Indiana is in this category, rebounding is one of the few weaknesses the Heat possess. Against a strong defending team like the Pacers, a team that limits its opponents to just 90.7 points per game, Miami’s weakness on the boards could prove to be a legitimate concern and obstacle in the way of their goal of back-to-back trips to the NBA Finals.
High Scoring Games Should Mean Advantage Miami
Because of the way the Pacers play defense, it is a very infrequent occurrence that an opposing team score more than 100 points against them. To the inverse of this however, an offense like Miami’s is no doubt extremely difficult to keep under 100 points. But if and when Indiana can do this, advantage Pacers. Games in which the Heat score 100 or more however, advantage Miami.
On the season, Indiana has a 5-16 record, including an 0-3 mark in the playoffs, when the opposing team scores over 100 points. Miami meanwhile has a record of 52-2, including a 5-0 record in the postseason, when scoring at least 100 points.
The moral of the story? If Miami scores at least 100 points, they are all but assured victory.
Final Thoughts And Game 3 Betting Pick
One of the elements currently working in Indiana’s favor is the fact that they have effectively taken the three-point shot out of the question for the Heat, a relatively solid shooting team from behind in the arc. The Pacers lead the league allowing just 5.4 threes per game while the Heat are third best with an average of 8.7 threes made per game.
When it comes to field goal percentage, the advantage clearly belongs to Miami. The Heat lead the league in this category, successfully making 49.6 percent of their shots. However, Indiana does lead the league in allowing teams to shoot just 42 percent on the field.
So ultimately as it has been throughout the series, both Miami and Indiana have strengths and weaknesses. And of course like a good playoff series should, the weaknesses of the one team are combated as a strength of the other.
Miami is one of the best shooting teams in the league but Indiana is one of the best defending squads. Indiana leads the league in rebounding but Miami is better when it comes to points per game.
This is a classic battle of defense vs. offense but on Indiana’s home court, I have to believe the Pacers will earn the win and surge to a game three victory. They have shown fortitude and determination and have given the Heat a heck of a fight so far.
The sportsbooks have priced it as a very tight game. I think the value wager has to be a bet on the Indiana Pacers +1.5 on the spread with BetOnline Sportsbook @ odds of -110. They are evens (+100) on the moneyline, but I would prefer to take advantage of the head-start benefit the spread confers for slightly shorter odds. Bovada sees it the same way as they go Pacers +2 at odds of -115.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB, NBA & tennis for USA Betting. Another area of her sporting journalistic expertise is pro wrestling. A native of Philadelphia and a big Eagles fan, she has been a sports writer for many major websites including Bleacher Report and Rant Sports. She started her journalistic career early, as sports editor for her college newspaper.