Last night was dark in the NBA, thanks to the Spurs making quick work of the Grizzlies, but the NBA retakes center stage tonight with an enormously pivotal Game Five between the dead-even Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat. Even casual sportsfans know what is at stake tonight; the team that wins Game Five in series that are 2-2 win the series. Nearly every time. In fact, 83% of the time, Game Five determines the series. Last year, these two teams were in the same position in the semifinals, before Miami won Game Five at home and then closed out the series in six in Indianapolis.
Are we headed for the same result this time? Or can Indiana continue to prove that this year things are just a little more even… and a lot different…
Let’s take a look at the key factors in tonight’s pivotal game.
Indiana Pacers at Miami Heat -8 (Total: 185)
This series has been incredibly tight and incredibly even to this point. The +8 point differential for the Heat overall doesn’t even do justice to a series that has been within five points for more than 80% of the time on the court. Tonight, like the first four games, will come down to whether or not Miami can control Indiana’s interior presence, both offensively and on the boards, and if Miami’s role players can knock down shots at a high percentage.
In Games Two and Three, especially Three, Miami did just that. In games one and four, Roy Hibbert has exploded offensively and they have limited Lebron’s efficiency on the offensive end. He has still scored points, but it took him 42 shots to notch 20 makes (54 points) in the two losses as opposed to 22 of 37 for 56 points. The output is nearly the same, but the extra eight empty field goal attempts is a HUGE difference, particularly given Indiana’s ability to control the rebounding edge.
I like Lebron to play well at home, and don’t be surprised to see them go to their reluctant bread and butter, Lebron in the post, earlier and more often. However, I still don’t see them having solved the riddle that has been David West and Roy Hibbert inside. Unless Chris Bosh steps up to the physical challenge of bodying one of them up (he hasn’t because he CAN’T), I like the Pacer big to combine for 50 and 20 – and that should be enough to keep the game close.
It’s hard to see Miami going down 3-2 at home tonight, but it is equally hard to see them steamrolling the Pacers like they did in Game Three. That game was a perfect combination of efficiency and the younger Pacer team panicking a bit when they got down double digits. I don’t see Udonis Haslem and Birdman combining for 12 of 13 shooting again in this series.
Give me the Pacers to keep it close enough to cover, and I’ll once again take the OVER 185 until this series proves itself to be the mid-80’s range slugfest Vegas keeps waiting for. Nine of their last ten games haven’t been, so play the odds with the OVER.
Free Picks: Indiana Pacers +8 (note, most books have closed the line to 7.5, so shop around) & TOTAL POINTS OVER 185