Indiana Pacers at Miami Heat -6.5 (Total: 181)
Our attention will be focused solely on the Eastern Conference for the remainder of the week. Not because of some inherent “east coast bias” but for the simple fact; they are on the only show in town. Things came to an anti-climactic thud last night in Oklahoma City as the Thunder dispatched of the Lakers in five games. The middle of the series (Games Two through Four) were fantastic, tense, dramatic television. However the Thunder book ended the series with an exclamation point, sending the Lakers from whence they came with another resounding blowout loss.
If you are one for symbolism, consider last night a begrudging passing of the torch from Kobe (who was fantastic) to the dynamic duo of Durant and Westbrook. At 22 and 23 years old respectively, it is really difficult to see the Lakers as legitimate contenders in the West anytime soon without a major roster overhaul (Pao Gasol anyone? Who wants Pao Gasol?? I can almost hear the auctioneer…)
While we wait for an absolutely sensational series between the Spurs and Thunder, we still have a lot to resolve our East. Tonight the Pacers try to rebound from the scintillating Lebron/DWade show Sunday in Indianapolis and scratch out a road win in a pivotal Game Five in Miami. This series has been scrappy and physical, which favors the Pacers, but it has also been Lebron-dominated for long stretches, which obviously favors the Heat and ‘Bron. So can Indy contain the Heat duo tonight and get the looking like the flustered and flummoxed team we saw in Games Two and Three?
A big key for Indy is keeping center Roy Hibbert on the floor. The 7’2’’ defensive stalwart fouled out Sunday, and has been plagued with foul difficulties most of the series, with the exception of Game Three (which he not coincidentally dominated with 18 and 17). While the Pacers want Hibbert to play smart, they are also going to need Danny Granger (who’s also been saddled with foul difficulties) and Paul George to do a better job of keeping Wade and James in front of them, limiting the need for Hibbert to get caught in the no-man’s land between preventing a dunk and challenging the short runner in the lane.
There are two ways to look at tonight’s game; the first is that two sleeping giants have awoken and that the Heat are ready to close this series in two more inevitable steps behind two of the best players in the world. I can listed to that theory. The second, is also imminently possible; it states that as great as Wade and Lebron are their Game Four performance will not be duplicated again this series (ever?). Lebron had 40 points, 17 rebounds and 9 assists. Wade added 30 more points, and the two of them had nine assists to EACH OTHER. Udonis Haslem, who ranked among the lowest power forwards in all the NBA in FG% shot exceptionally well in Game Four as well.
With ALL that magic on the Heat’s side, they STILL had to surge late to win that game. In my opinion, that is as well as they can possibly play without Chris Bosh. And it was barely enough to beat the Pacers on a day when they had significant foul trouble.
I am not sure that Indy can win Game Five on the road, but I do know they are not the “dead team walking” that many are making them out to be. Tonight is going to be a tough game. For that reason, I like the Pacers with a nice healthy handful of points to their line.
Free Pick: Indiana Pacers -6.5