The Miami Heat will need more than a fiery speech from LeBron James if they hope to close out the Indiana Pacers in Saturday’s Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Up 3-2 in the best of seven series, Miami can advance to its third consecutive NBA Finals with a victory.
Already struggling to contend with Indiana’s stacked frontline led by center Roy Hibbert and power forward David West, the Heat learned they will be without the services of critical big man Chris Andersen.
Nicknamed “Birdman”, Andersen was suspended for Game 6 after shoving Pacers forward Tyler Hansborough. In 15.4 minutes a game this postseason, Andersen has averaged 7.1 points, four rebounds and 1.4 blocks a game off the bench.
James essentially cursed out his teammates and took over the third quarter for Miami’s 90-79 Game 5 victory, notching 30 points, eight rebounds, and six assists. James was even quoted saying he was channeling his days in Cleveland when he carried the Cavaliers for long stretches of games.
Andersen’s play in the post has offset the continued rebounding struggles for all-star Chris Bosh, and his energy may have provided a spark with guard Dwyane Wade averaging a career playoff-low 13.9 points.
Indiana can continue to pound the ball inside with its triumvirate of West, Hibbert, and emerging star Paul George. In Game 5 the trio combined for 66 points on 53 percent shooting, but had no help from their bench.
George also pulled down 11 rebounds, but five of the Pacers 17 turnovers came from his hands. Those giveaways resulted in 22 Miami points.
The game tips off at 8:30 p.m. Eastern and will be broadcast by TNT, or watch a live online stream at TNT Overtime here.
Betting Odds: Miami is favored by 3 points
Over/Under: 183 points
Prediction: Turnovers and more scoring from George Hill and Lance Stephenson are the only way Indiana can force a Game 7. James has proven he can singlehandedly beat the Pacers, but he will need Wade and Bosh to break out of their funks if he hits a cold streak.
Predicted Score: Indiana 94, Miami 92