The biggest game of the 2012-2013 NBA season is set to get underway on Monday night. The Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers will square off in Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Finals.
The series will culminate in Miami, after having gone back and forth for almost two weeks. No team has held more than a one-game lead and Indiana avoided elimination on Saturday night in Game Six. Now, the two teams will play for the right to meet the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals.
Throughout the 2013 NBA Playoffs, the Heat have remained overwhelming favorites to win the title. Even when playing on the road, Miami has never been an underdog this postseason. After scoring just 77 points in their 14-point Game Six loss, the Heat are giving the Pacers seven points in Game Seven.
Despite the betting odds at Las Vegas Casinos, the Pacers have gone toe-to-toe with the Heat for six contests. Miami has outscored Indiana by just five points in the series and failed to cover the point spread four out of six times.
In the regular season, Miami was the far superior team. As the No.1 seed, the Heat finished with 17 more wins than the Pacers. They also breezed through the first two rounds of the playoffs, losing only once. In the Eastern Conference Finals, however, the Heat have been unable to advance because of poor performances by Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
LeBron James has continued to play like an MVP in this series, averaging 28.5 points, 7.2 rebounds and 5.5 assists on 51.6 percent shooting. The other members of the “Big Three” have failed to provide James with much help. Wade has been affected by a knee injury, scoring almost seven points less than his season average. Bosh has been virtually invisible, scoring 11.3 points and grabbing less than four rebounds per contest. The two played so poorly in Game Six that they were benched for much of the fourth quarter.
Miami may have the best player on the court, but Indiana’s supporting cast has been much more productive. Roy Hibbert has dominated Bosh down low, averaging 22.8 points and 10.8 rebounds a game. David West has also contributed to the Pacers dominance in the interior.
The play of James’s teammates has been reminiscent to that of his teammates with the Cleveland Cavaliers. With both Wade and Bosh slumping, James could be the victim of a similar fate in 2013. Even in Game One when he put up 30 points and a triple-double, James needed to hit a buzzer-beater to give the Heat the win.
Paul George has made the leap to become one of the best players in the NBA, but the Heat still have a big advantage with James as their top star. George is averaging 21.5-5.8-5.3 this series, but he’s never played in a Game Seven. James is almost sure to have a big performance, since he has the highest scoring average of any player who’s participated in multiple Game Seven’s.
The elimination game will likely draw the biggest rating of any game this season. Viewers can watch the contest on TV or online. The 2012 Eastern Conference Finals finale between the Heat and Boston Celtics drew a 9.1 overnight rating, making it the most watched NBA playoff game on cable since records started being kept in 2003.
Time: 8:30 p.m. ET
Live Stream: TNT Overtime
Point Spread: Miami-7, 180
Prediction: Miami 100, Indiana 88