Game 1 could hardly have been more exciting in the NBA Eastern conference finals. The Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers played an overtime thriller with LeBron James making a buzzer beating lay-up after receiving an in-bound pass from Shane Battier with 2.2 seconds left.
It had looked like Indiana would be victorious after Paul George sunk three free throw shots in the dying seconds to give the Pacers a one-point lead. The underdogs played exactly the sort of game they wanted to play all night and put the championship favorites under extreme pressure.
However close Game 1 was, the score line in the series reads 1-0 Heat. Miami can take a critical advantage in the series if they are able to hold serve again tonight in Game 2.
The Pacers got just about everything right in Game 1, they played the game exactly the way that they needed to. They were physical, they won the battle on the boards and they got their front court into the game. David West was a beast in the first part of the game and finished with an impressive 26 points. Paul George came alive in the second half knocking down a huge deep three late in regulation and then the ‘near’ game winning free throws in overtime. He finished with a team high 27 points. Roy Hibbert also played exceptionally through most of the game and finished with 19 points.
There has been much discussion about head coach Frank Vogel’s decision to take Hibbert off the floor for the final two plays of the game, including James’ game winning lay-up where he had a clear route to the basket. Vogel’s decision deserves to be debated, but the play ultimately highlighted the match-up problems that Indiana will continue to have against Miami. Chris Bosh shoots great away from the basketball and can pull Hibbert away, while the Heat also have some of the game’s best perimeter shooters in Ray Allen, Shane Battier and Dwyane Wade. This is a defensive conundrum for Vogel and it reared its head for the first time late in Game 1.
The Heat will know that they were not that far away from falling behind 1-0 for the second straight series. They looked out-competed on a few occasions and actually got surprised by some of the jump shooting of the team’s big men in George and West. They will also know that even the game winning basket was somewhat fortunate with the lane wide open, George’s mistake and the absence of Hibbert allowing everything to unfold.
The good news is that Miami knows that they can play a bit better. Battier and Allen both had poor shooting nights which seriously affected the shooting damage that the Heat can do. They will expect those players to do more again. Meanwhile, James will surely drive harder to the basket more often early in this game. Look for Bosh to play a critical role in this series creating space for his jump shots and pulling big men away from the basket.
Betting Preview: Miami (-7.5) vs. Indiana
The Heat have still got a big spread which will make the Pacers a tempting pick on this bet. However, the confidence and belief James will have received from that game winning basket combined with the superstar’s natural tendency to seemingly figure opposing defenses out could skew that. Miami will shoot better in Game 2 and they will bring a better overall offensive effort. Can West and Hibbert really replicate their fantastic displays from Game 1? That remains to be seen. Indiana may have to wait until Games 3 and 4 before they get a serious chance to get their upset bid seriously started though.
The Pick: Miami (-7.5) [5dimes.eu]
Writer Record Against The Spread: 17-9