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The Heat Go For An Eastern Conference “Three-Peat” Against Upset-Minded Pacers

Posted by Craig Parsons on 5/21/2013 7:18:33 PM

For the third straight season, the Miami Heat have reached the Eastern Conference Finals. Will they make their third straight NBA Finals appearance? Wednesday will help shape the answer.

Eastern Conference Finals, Game 1:
Indiana Pacers @ Miami Heat – Wednesday, May 22

A sound sports bet will probably be able to make a reasoned case for one side… yet still wind up picking the better team. The playoffs bring a level of ferocity in competition that would earn the respect of MMA betting specialists. Indiana won’t be cowed or intimidated by Miami, and that’s what will make this series interesting. Yet, Indiana has to do more than punch Miami in the mouth to win.

When people in the online sports betting legal realm size up this game, the odds should be tilted to Miami, because the Heat have been through this process many times before. Miami is making its third straight appearance in the Eastern Conference Finals, while this is Indiana’s first trip to the conference final round of the playoffs since the 2004 season. Miami has more experience in this matchup, and that’s the kind of thing that normally matters in the NBA, a league in which upstart teams or newbies must go through a painful initiation before graduating to a higher level the following season. Even the Heat, when assembling their “Big Three” of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh, did not figure everything out in their first season together. They lost in the 2011 NBA Finals to the Dallas Mavericks before taking the final step and winning the title in 2012. This is how life typically unfolds in professional basketball, and that’s why the Heat are probably going to pull out this series before it’s all said and done.

The Pacers do have a real chance in this series – it’s worth defending that claim. The Heat have been sloppy and uneven at the offensive end of the floor in the playoffs, especially in the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Chicago Bulls. Miami has not played at a high level; it has been good enough to win the first two rounds of the playoffs, but not good enough to win a conference or league championship. The Heat must elevate their level of play if they want to move forward, and as basketball gurus witnessed in the East semifinal series between Indiana and New York, the Pacers’ primary point of emphasis is not on looking good themselves, but on making the opponent look bad at the offensive end of the floor. Yes, Indiana won a high-scoring Game 6 to finish off New York, but for most of the series, the Pacers gummed up the Knicks’ offense and contained superstar Carmelo Anthony.

Indiana’s defense has length on the wings and size in the middle, with Paul George emerging as an elite perimeter defender (he will guard LeBron James and make life hard for him) and center Roy Hibbert becoming a tower of power in the middle of the paint. Miami will have difficulty maneuvering around George and Hibbert. The Heat’s wings will have to make shots, but Ray Allen and Shane Battier did not do a very good job of hitting shots against Chicago. The Heat have to be better in this regard, or they’ll struggle against Indiana. This can’t be denied after Miami’s slog through the second round against the Bulls, who gave Indiana a lot of genuine encouragement.
Yet, this game – like the series – is probably going to be won by Miami because Indiana’s offense is so balky. The Pacers are vulnerable to turnovers, and they also struggle at the free throw line. Indiana’s guards are unreliable three-point shooters; for all of Miami’s limitations on offense, Indiana has even more of them. This looks like a game in which Miami’s offense will struggle… and Indiana’s offense will falter. The Heat will survive an ugly encounter.

NBA Betting Pick: Miami

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