The Miami Heat will meet the Indiana Pacers for the second straight season in for the Eastern Conference Championship. The biggest difference between this season and last season is the Pacers hold the home court advantage.
Miami has played fewer games than any of the other three teams remaining in the playoffs. The Heat swept Charlotte in four games to open the postseason and then took care of Brooklyn in five games. Miami rallied late in Game 5 to close out their series with Brooklyn.
Indiana nearly lost to Atlanta in the first round after trailing in the series 3-2 with Game 6 on the road in Atlanta. In the second round, Indiana lost the first game to Washington, but then won four of the next five to win the series in 6 games 4-2.
Over the past two seasons, the two teams have played very competitive head-to-head games. Last year Miami needed seven games to defeat Indiana for the Eastern Conference title.
During the regular season this year, the teams were 2-2. Each team won its two games at home, while six or fewer points decided three of the four games.
As is always the case, the key to Miami is LeBron James. If he continues playing as he did in the two previous series, no one will beat Miami.
James is averaging 30 points per game on only 17 shots. He is dominating at the defense end. Teammates Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade are having good postseasons, but everything pales in comparison to James.
On Indiana, Roy Hibbert their 7-foot-2 center has had a rough go at times during the postseason, while in others he has played excellent.
Many thought Hibbert would be a good choice as the defensive player of the year, but over the past 20 games of the season, his play fell way off on the defensive end.
He averaged less than four points in three losses during the postseason and 20 points and more than 8 rebounds in three straight wins the Pacers had against Washington. If Hibbert is not a consistent factor inside on both ends of the court, Indiana will not have any chance of defeating Miami.
Indiana has one of the best defenses in the league. However, Miami’s offense is far superior to that of Indiana, which gives the Heat an advantage.
Miami was No. 2 in the league with 109 points for 100 possessions, while Indiana was No. 22 with 101.5 points for 100 possessions.
If Hibbert shows up the Pacers can control the middle. While James has been practically unstoppable in the paint this postseason, Hibbert alters shots as good as anyone in the league does.
The current line on the series on Bovada, betonline, topbet and sportsbook.com has Miami at -390 and Indiana on +330.
Pick: Miami 4-2