Against just about all expectations. The Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers are headed to a deciding Game 7 on Monday night in Miami. The Heat were fully expected to roll through the Eastern conference playoffs on their way to a third straight NBA Finals appearance, and as they chase a second straight NBA title. Instead, they’ve been heavily challenged by the third seeded Pacers and there is a degree of doubt that LeBron James and the defending champions can oust Indiana even on home court.
Indiana has done it by dominating on the inside. Paul George has been a little erratic throughout the series both offensively and defensively, but he has really picked up his play in the past two games scoring 27 and 28 points respectively. He was 11-19 from the field in both those games.
The story of this series has undoubtedly been center Roy Hibbert though. The 26-year old has come alive in this series dominating Miami’s smaller inside presence. He is averaging 22.8 points per game and has shown some great post moves. The one concern for the Pacers will be the effect that a recent off-court incident has on their star of the series. Hibbert used a gay slur in post-media comments and was rightfully fined heavily by the NBA in the aftermath. Coach Frank Vogel will need his big man to re-focus and play great basketball tonight.
As much as the big men are important. Lance Stephenson and George Hill need to get their points and set the play up. When Miami have disrupted the guards, Indiana have struggled to score. Stephenson is a man with game breaking offensive and defensive talent in the back court.
A failure to advance to the NBA Finals will probably be a taint on LeBron James and his career, which is constantly being evaluated and measured against the game’s all-time greats. However, there’s little doubt that Miami are suffering because of the failure for other players to step up. Both Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh appear to be ailing. Wade is averaging just 12 points in the past three games and really appears to be struggling to make an impact. Meanwhile, Bosh is averaging a mediocre 11.3 points per game during the series, but has just 19 points in total over the past three games. The ‘big three’ hasn’t really existed in this series and that’s a problem.
Miami’s problems go beyond that though. Shane Battier (2 for 16 in the series) and Ray Allen (13 for 46) have both gone ice cold in terms of their shooting and that has seriously damaged the overall threat that the Heat can pose. The good news for Game 7 is that Chris Andersen returns to the line-up after missing Game 6 due to suspension.
Betting Preview: Miami (-7) v Indiana
The upset pick will tempt more than a few here and that is clearly reflected in a generous spread. However, in a one off game, it has to be assumed that Miami figure this out. James has the ability to take over a couple of quarters in a game and he will do that in Game 7. The Heat are the best pick here.
The Pick: Miami (-7) (5dimes.eu)
Writer’s Record Against The Spread: 18-11