Indiana Pacers at Miami Heat -8.5 (Total: 186.5)
Dear Universe, I apologize. I dared defy the basketball Gods and bet against Kobe Bryant in a home Game Seven. In repose, I have been punished and my glorious seven game NBA Playoff win streak against the spread has been snapped and we start with a fresh clean start in Round Two.
The same clean start will not be the case for the Pacers and the Heat series that kicks off this afternoon. The Indiana Pacers, most of whom could walk past you at the grocery store unrecognized (except for that whole, holy s**t! That guy is seven feet tall! factor…) are probably the most anonymous good team in the NBA. Basketball fans know Danny Granger, Roy Hibbert, David West and Paul George. Casual fans might know Tyler Hansbrough, based solely on his college career and oddly-insectian constant eye bulge, but other than that, there aren’t any household names suiting up in the visitor’s locker room today.
So this series could have easily kicked off with next to no fanfare, had it not been for Frank Vogel stirring the pot a bit in the media this week, calling the Miami Heat, “the biggest floppers in the NBA.” He is probably trying to curry a few calls with the officials, but it certainly caught the attention of the national media and has added a little flavor to what could have been a pretty ho-hum series.
The Heat have obvious personnel advantages with Lebron, Wade and Bosh. That goes with out saying. However the Pacers do bring an incredible balance, and fierce defensive tenacity which makes them the polar opposite of the Knicks, whom the Heat just finished dispatching. I have been on record, saying confidently the Heat ARE winning the NBA championship since Januaury. I do not waver in that opinion now. BUT… do not overlook the fact the Pacers are legitimately NOT afraid of this team and are going to compete.
Can they win a game or two? I’m not sure. In the last two minutes, the down side of “balance” tends to rear its head in the playoffs. With less than a minute to go in a tight game, who on the Indiana Pacers can go and get them a desperately needed bucket? The casual fan’s answer is “Danny Granger” but keep in mind he shot less than 40% from the floor this season. And he likely draws Lebron James as his smothering shadow for the next few weeks… fun times for Danny, right??
If teams are able to “steal” a game in Playoff series, it is usually Game One. I don’t think the Pacers get a win today, but I do like them to set a very physical tempo early and to make the Heat work for 48 minutes and close them out today. Eight and half is a pretty wide margin, especially as well as the Pacers played the Heat in their last two head-to-head matchups.
Give me Indiana and the points in the start of a much better than expected series.
Free Pick: Indiana Pacers +8.5