The Indiana Pacers have been playing a Jekyll and Hyde act during their Eastern conference finals series against the Miami Heat. After doing well to split the series 1-1 in Miami, they headed back to Indiana only to get run over by LeBron James and Miami in Game 3 losing 114-96. James dominated in post play and it looked like the Heat were set to roll through the series.
However, everything seemed to change in Game 4 once again. The Pacers kept pace with the Heat throughout the game and pulled away late especially when James fouled out in the dying minutes. They completely the boards once again and Roy Hibbert had another big game.
It seemed only obvious that in Game 5 against the Heat in Miami, the Pacers would struggle a little more once again. The 2012 NBA champions will see this game as crucial to playing as fresh as possible against the San Antonio Spurs, while the energetic home crowd in Indiana will be willing their team to at least one more win.
The Pacers formula for beating Miami seems to be pretty clear. It centers around the big man Hibbert. The 26-year old scored 14.7 points per game in the first round series against the Atlanta Hawks, he knocked down 13.3 against the New York Knicks, but he has exploded averaging 22.6 points during five games of these conference finals. He is also picking up 10.8 rebounds per game. It’s no surprise playing against Chris Bosh at center, but Hibbert needs to continue producing on both ends of the court.
The Game 4 and 5 contrast was particularly notable relating to the play of guards Lance Stephenson and George Hill. Stephenson was a work horse all night in Game 4 finishing with 20 points on 9-15 shooting. Hill connected for two of the team’s three 3-point shots and also picked up six assists. However, in Game 5 that tandem combined for just five points. They cannot afford to get shut down in this series even while the Pacers’ big men are able to dictate things on the inside.
Any discussion of the Heat automatically seems to surround LeBron James. He is averaging 28.4 points, 7.2 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game. That’s not at all bad. He beat the Pacers in the post in Game 3, but was smothered and boxed out by the team’s big men in Game 4. Instead he got hot from three-point range knocking down four of seven from beyond the arc. He then completely took over Game 5 putting on a one-man dynamo show scoring 30 points, while picking up eight rebounds and six assists.
However, as good as James was in Game 5. The Heat will still need all of the ‘big three’ if they plan to finish off this series and of course if they hope to compete against San Antonio in the NBA Finals. Wade and Bosh combined for just 17 points in Game 5 and neither player has hit their peak in the conference finals. Both are possibly struggling with ailments, but James is going to need their help over the next couple of weeks.
Betting Preview: Indiana (+3) v Miami
The Heat enter this game only slightly favored. The fact that James had to do so much by himself in Game 5 should be a concern. However, there is a feeling that Miami are ready to take this on and finally advanced to the NBA Finals. Wade and Bosh will play better and James will bring the same drive and determination to finally put this game to bed.
The Pick: Miami (-3) (5dimes.eu)
Writer’s Record Against The Spread: 18-10