In LeBron James’s four-year reign with the Miami Heat, he has guided the two-time champions to an 11-3 record in playoff elimination games. Up 3-1 and on the precipice of reaching a fourth straight NBA Finals, James and the Heat hope to better that record against the Indiana Pacers in Wednesday night’s Game Five of the Eastern Conference Finals at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
No team has reached the Finals four straight times since the heart of Larry Bird's prime with the Boston Celtics from 1984 to 1987.
Of course Paul George, Roy Hibbert and the rest of the Pacers are looking to stave off elimination, and were the last team to do so against Miami in Game Six of last year’s conferences finals. In that 91-77 blowout win, George racked up 28 points, eight rebounds and five assists and Hibbert recorded a double-double of 24 points and 11 rebounds, while Indiana didn’t let 21 turnovers hurt its chances.
Over the last five years the Pacers are 5-5 in elimination games and they’ll need their cornerstones in Hibbert and George to come alive in order to extend their playoff run. The 7-foot Hibbert struggled with fouls in Indiana’s Game Four 102-90 loss and wound up with no points and five rebounds in 22 minutes, looking like the center that couldn’t get anything going in the first two rounds of these playoffs.
Hibbert’s woes might pale in comparison to George failing to take over the Pacers offense in the postseason. George has seen his scoring dip in this series, averaging 19.5 points on 41 percent shooting from the floor compared to more than 21 points in the regular season. The 24-year-old small forward has also taken three fewer shots per game, 14, than the 17 a game he attempted during the regular season.
By George’s account the Pacers weren’t outplayed by the Heat in Game Four, but rather got some “home cooking” from the referees and knocked down 30 of their 34 free throw attempts compared to 11-for-17 for Indiana. George was of course fined $25,000 by the NBA Tuesday for his comments.
George may have had a point about Game Four, but overall Indiana’s been given 94 trips to the free throw line compared to 87 for the Heat in the series. In the Pacers’ lone victory so far, they went 29-for-37 and Miami was10-for-15 in Game One in Indiana.
James pointed to the Heat committing a paltry five turnovers to Indiana’s 14 in Game Four as the real difference. For the series Indiana is averaging 13 giveaways to Miami’s 10.5 per game, and with each game decided by an average of 9.75 points its clear the Pacers turnover troubles are one reason they’ve fallen into a 3-1 hole.
The matchup at power forward in this series was supposed one the Pacers could count on, with David West expected to give Chris Bosh all sorts of trouble on the block. West has played well, averaging 15.5 points and 4.8 rebounds including 20 points, 12 rebounds and four assists in Game Four, but Bosh countered with 25 points on 7-for-12 shooting, while converting eight of his 10 free throw attempts. It was the second-highest point total for Bosh in a Heat uniform in the postseason.
Indiana received a huge lift from reserve forward Luis Scola, who chipped in 12 points in Game Four, but his contribution can’t make up for the Pacers lack of aggressiveness as each game has progressed. The Pacers have started each game relatively well, outscoring the Heat 91-85 in the first quarter, but coming out of the half the Heat hold a 110-96 advantage in the third.
Start Time: Wednesday, 8:30 p.m. EST
TV Channel: ESPN
Live Online Stream Info: A live online stream is available at Watch ESPN here.
Betting Odds: Miami -2.5
Over/Under: 184 points
Prediction: Indiana over Miami, 97-92