With the series all tied up at two games apiece, the Miami Heat prepare for a return to action at home against the Indiana Pacers in a critical Game 5 tonight that will send one of these two teams to the brink of elimination, and the other just one game away from reaching the Eastern Conference Finals. Tip-off is set for 8:00 PM ET at the American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida, where the Heat have once again regained home court advantage with two of the last three games set to play out down in South Florida.
After a stunning performance in Game 4 to give the Heat a 101-93 series-evening win, LeBron James will once again have all the attention on him heading into this exciting match-up tonight. James, as expected of the NBA’s regular season MVP, has been simply superb in the playoffs and this series with the Pacers so far, scoring 30.5 points per game and 12.2 rebounds through 4 games while averaging north of 42 minutes per contest. It certainly doesn’t look as though King James is letting up or getting tired from the physical play seen in this series, as Game 4′s 40 point, 18 rebound, 9 assist line proves. If anything, LeBron James is only getting better, which is a huge boost with Chris Bosh still out of the series, and for tonight the Heat will have to focus on getting their top playmaker the ball, while maintaining their strong defense exhibited in Game 4.
Across the board, the Heat were better than the Indiana Pacers in almost every single statistic, most importantly generating more rebounds (47-37 overall, 14-8 on the offensive glass) and shooting at a high percentage from the floor (%47.5 to Indiana’s 41.8). Those two trends will be key to the Miami game plan this evening, as will finding a way to get major production from both LeBron James and Dwayne Wade late in the game. In Game 4′s win, the Heat saw James and Wade collectively outscore and outrebound the entire Pacers line-up, producing 43 points and 19 rebounds, to Indiana’s 39 points and 18 rebounds. Despite Indiana building a 10 point lead in the second half, the dominating play of these two Heat stars helped fuel the fire of the entire Miami line-up, to pull them back from the brink of going down 3-1 in the series with 3 consecutive defeats. The win proved to have a two-fold effect; 1). The Heat get home court advantage back in their hands, with 2 of the possibly 3 remaining games set to be played at home, and, 2). Miami has regained confidence that seemed all but lost after two consecutive losses in Games 3 and 4. Though James and Wade are truly essential to the Heat’s game plan, with Indiana knowing they must fight hard tonight to avoid a loss and a return trip to Miami to close out the series, the Heat have to find some players who will step up and support their stars, as there is no question that the Pacers will come hard tonight with all the depth and talent they have.
Despite the shooting woes and the lackluster performance on defense and rebounding in Game 4, the Pacers should be regrouped and ready for the tough challenge in front of them this evening. Two players for the Pacers who must step up tonight include David West and Roy Hibbert, both of whom were kept to 10 or less points in Game 4, and less than 10 rebounds each. Where Indiana has thrived in this series has been on the glass, and getting back their strong inside form is crucial to their success. As Miami can’t expect LeBron James and Dwayne Wade to consistently pull the rebounding load for the Heat, (from these two, no other Miami player had more than 4 rebounds in Game 4), Indiana must focus on better blocking out, more presence around every loose rebound, and keeping LeBron James and Dwayne Wade further out away from the key. Preventing these two guys from collectively scoring 70 points would hurt either, but it’s also telling for the Pacers that if they can focus on shutting down the weak depth the Heat have in this series, there is a good probability that the two Heat stars simply won’t be able to put up the same type of numbers in a video game-like Game 4. If the Pacers can return to their dominant form in the paint, winning the battles of scoring down low and outrebounding the Heat on both offense and defense, then they’ll be in prime position to steal away a win down in South Beach this evening.
Miami’s scoring attack, while getting bolstered by their two biggest stars, certainly poses some concern heading into this big match-up. Only Udonis Haslem managed more than 10 points on the evening, with the bench scorers for the Heat combining for 20 points on the night, with starters not named James or Wade contributing only 11. Key players who simply have to be better include Shane Battier, who was just 1-for-7 in 30 minutes of playing time in Game 4, and Mario Chalmers, who shot 3-for-9 and had his second poor performance in a row. Chalmers is a big key for Miami, as Indiana will put a lot more emphasis near the basket to regain their advantage there, leaving room for a hot outside Heat hand to do some damage. While Miami has shot well from beyond the arc (%41.7 in Game 4 alone), they are taking nearly half as many shots as the Pacers. Miami could come out and surprise Indiana by looking to drop in more deep balls, especially if the Pacers are focused on locking down the paint, and a hot-shooting night by Chalmers around the arc would no doubt put a lot of confidence back in the rest of the Miami periphery. Two other players who absolutely must play better tonight for Miami; Ronny Turiaf and Joel Anthony, the two centers. They’ve been almost non-existent in the series thus far, and with Miami needing to spread the scoring wealth around, something better than a combined 4 points in 36 total minutes would be of big help.
Betting Lines for the Miami Heat vs. Indiana Pacers at Sportsbetting Sportsbook.
Miami takes a solid advantage on the betting lines for tonight’s Game 5 showdown, with -330 odds to win straight up. Meanwhile the Pacers are clear underdogs on the road, with +265 odds to win. The poor showing in Game 4 by Indiana just might have made their odds as underdogs that much more intriguing for sports bettors tonight, and despite having a tough environment to play in at American Airlines Arena, the Pacers should have the confidence of winning Game 2 there the last time these two met in South Florida.
Against the spread, Miami gets 6 1/2 points as favorites, needing to cover that margin to earn -110 odds for ATS pickers. Again, this poses a good opportunity to back the Pacers, who despite dropping Game 4 by 8 points, should see a return to better shooting, better defense, and better inside-the-paint presence to keep this game close.
For the total points line, the over/under is set at 181.5 points. This series has been up and down with the scoring lines, but we expect both teams to push the pace once more to clip past the over mark. Miami will have to play well in transition basketball to score easy buckets, as they can’t expect to have the same success inside around the hoop as they did on Sunday night. As for the Pacers, their depth of offense should provide for a better performance here tonight, as they know they’ll need a well-rounded, solid shooting effort to walk out of South Beach with a W.