The Thunder notched their eighth straight home win against the San Antonio Spurs to make what looked like a walkover into a “real” series last night. It sounds overly simplistic to say that the return of Serge Ibaka made all the difference… but it did seem to make all the difference. Obviously the change in venue didn’t hurt either, but the offensive spacing and defensive intensity were noticeably amped up with the return of Serge.
It will be fascinating to see how he and his injured calf fare tomorrow night with just one day rest in between games from here on out for the remained of the Conference Finals. If he can contribute in a similar fashion to last night we are in for a long and entertaining series.
Meanwhile, the Pacers will try to emotionally bounce-back from a demoralizing second half against the Heat. If they can’t get off the deck and recover quickly, they are in real danger of going out with a whimper after a whole season pointing towards this rematch…
Let’s take a look at Game Four and see if we can get on the winning side.
Game Four – Eastern Conference Playoffs
Indiana Pacers at Miami Heat -6 (Total: 183)
Technically, tonight is not a “must-win” for the Pacers, for you linguistic purists. However, let’s call It what it really is; a do-or-die game for Indiana. They are not coming back from a 3-1 hole against the three-time defending Eastern Conference champions, barring a freak injury to LeBron. It just ain’t happening. So tonight, for all intents and purposes, the season is on the line.
So how will Indiana respond? We’ve seen them come out with good energy and effort in all three of the games in this series. Two of the three they were overwhelmed late by a Heat team that appeared to be merely pacing itself – pun intended.
The good news for the Pacers is that one game between these two teams seems to have little effect on the next. The Heat won two in row for the first time in this series last 13 games. These two have traded punches pretty evenly since 2012 and both have shown an ability to get up off the mat. Game Three featured a pair of statistical anomalies; first, as great as Ray Allen is, he isn’t likely to go 4 for 4 from distance in a 15 moinute span again this series. And as great as Dwyane Wade is, the first three games of this series and particularly Game Three have been vintage 2006 D-Wade. He’s been awesome, and even more important, awesomely efficient.
Lastly, Paul George has played well in this series but was saddled with bad foul problems in Game Three. Likewise for George Hill, which took a ton of steam out of their excellent defensive backcourt. I get the feeling that Vegas expects the Pacers to bounce back as well and is leaning towards this series being long and competitive series. The line for Game Three was -7.5. Tonight’s is just 6. I’d personally like to get a few more points, but I’m leaning Indiana’s way tonight. I’m not quite ready to go moneyline, but at +240 I am tempted. I think Game Three was a tale of two halves, with both teams playing both above and below their normal level in their respective periods. Tonight, I like a more even and competitive game.
I’ll take Indiana with the points, but won’t be stunned if this series gets back to level this evening.