The Eastern Conference Finals has proven to be much more difficult than the Miami Heat’s first two playoff series. The No.1 seed has struggled through four games against the Indiana Pacers, losing twice and needing a buzzer-beater from LeBron James to avoid losing both home games.
Heading into the third round of the 2013 NBA Playoffs, the defending champs had won 41 of 45 contests on their home court. On Thursday night, Miami will look to pick up where they left off at American Airlines Arena, before the start of the series. Game Five is scheduled for an 8:30 p.m. ET tip-off on TNT. Viewers can watch a free live stream online with TNT overtime.
Indiana won 17 fewer games than Miami in the regular season, but has gone toe-to-toe with the Heat all year. Miami has split their last six games with Indiana, including the regular season and playoffs. During that time, the Heat have gone 45-3 against the rest of the NBA.
Despite their ability to compete with the Heat, the Pacers remain heavy underdogs. In Game Five, Indiana is getting 7.5 points at most Las Vegas casinos. The Pacers are even bigger longshots to advance to the NBA Finals. At betonline.ag, Miami’s betting odds of advancing have been set at -460, while Indiana has been placed at +375.
If the Pacers want to pull off the upset, Roy Hibbert will have to perform like one of the best players on the court. He stood out in Indiana’s two victories, averaging 26 points and 11 rebounds on 65 percent field goal shooting. He’s out-played Chris Bosh by a wide margin, who has only grabbed 13 rebounds in the four games. In two of the Heat’s three playoff losses, Bosh has failed to score double-digits.
James still put up 24 points, six rebounds and five assists in Game Four, but missed the final minute when he fouled out. The MVP was called for his sixth foul on a controversial illegal screen. The Heat didn’t score after James left the game.
The officiating played a major role in Game Four. Other than James’s six fouls, Dwyane Wade and Mario Chalmers were both called for five. On Thursday, James, Lance Stephenson and David West were all fined $5,000 for flopping in the contest.
Paul George has done his best to match James. His production has slowed down, though, from when he scored 49 total points in the first two games. Stephenson picked up the slack in the last contest, scoring 20 points on 60 percent shooting.
Prediction: With the exception of Game Three, the entire series has been played very competitively. The Pacers haven’t been able to completely stop James, but Hibbert has done a good job of keeping him out of the paint. Indiana will keep it close, but the outside shooting of Miami may help them win a tight contest.
Predicted Score: Miami 94, Indiana 92