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Eastern Conference Finals Preview

The Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat meet in the Eastern Conference finals.

The Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat meet in the Eastern Conference finals.

The Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers will contest the Eastern Conference finals beginning Wednesday, with Game 1 scheduled to take place at American Airlines Arena in Downtown Miami.

The two sides have had contrasting postseasons so far. Miami has progressed with little wasted motion while Indiana has been involved in a pair of closer series that will have few thinking the side stands a chance now. Those with such thoughts in their minds could be very surprised.

We suggested that Miami would prefer to play Indiana. Now we’ll find out if that was indeed the case.

Bullish Heat

After a somewhat cautious start to the season, one that saw the team struggle on the road and against weak opposition, Miami turned the switch at the right time. The Heat ran roughshod through the NBA to close out the regular season before making short work of an embarrassingly overwhelmed Milwaukee Bucks team in the opening round of the playoffs.

A loss to the Chicago Bulls in Game 1 of the conference semifinals might have been call for concern, just not for the Heat. Eric Spoelstra’s side dispatched the undermanned Bulls in an offhand manner, reeling off four straight wins to close the series.

Now, with six days of rest, the Heat will look to advance to the NBA finals for a third successive year. Only Indiana stands between the side and that feat.

After a solid postseason so far, will Chris Bosh continue to come up big for the Heat?

After a solid postseason so far, will Chris Bosh continue to come up big for the Heat?

Solid Pacers

Indiana opened the season with 14/1 odds of winning the Eastern Conference, putting Frank Vogel’s side behind Miami, Chicago, the Boston Celtics, and the Brooklyn Nets. The Heat excluded, the Pacers looked good to finish above each of those sides for one reason or another before the season started, which makes the team’s appearance in the conference finals less than surprising.

After a solid season that saw the team emerge with its first Central Division title since 2004, Indiana outlasted the Atlanta Hawks, a side that proved more of a threat than it probably should have. A thrilling series with the New York Knicks followed, with the Pacers again picking up a 4-2 series victory.

Now the side led by All-Star Paul George – the NBA’s most improved player – will look to go against the odds and advance to the NBA finals by defeating Miami.

There’s already bad blood between the teams, which adds another dimension to what is already an intriguing series.

Season Head-to-Head

Indiana proved to be just one of two teams (along with the Knicks) to record a winning record during the regular season. The two sides met three times, with Indiana taking two wins.

Jan. 8: Miami 77, Indiana 89

Feb. 1: Miami 89, Indiana 102

Mar. 10: Indiana 91, Miami 105

After losing to the Pacers on Feb. 1, the Heat went on a 27-game winning streak that looked like the team might break the previous record of 33 straight wins set by the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers. All-told, Miami is 45-3 (.938) since that loss.

Both teams defended their home court, which could be worth considering before laying any cash down this series.

Roy Hibbert and David West have the size. Do they have what it takes to stop the Heat?

Roy Hibbert and David West have the size. Do they have what it takes to stop the Heat?

Previous Playoff Encounters

Miami and Indiana have met twice previously in the playoffs.

In 2004, the Pacers defeated the Heat 4-2 in the Eastern Conference semifinals. That series saw the top-seeded Pacers take a 2-0 lead before the No. 4-seeded Heat tied the series in South Florida. Indiana then took both Game 5 and 6 to eliminate their opponents and move on to the conference finals.

Last season, Miami exacted its revenge, defeating the Pacers 4-2 in the conference semifinals. It was the Pacers that got off to the good start, taking Game 1 and Game 3 for a 2-1 series lead. The Heat responded with three straight wins to close out the series, advancing to what would ultimately be an NBA championship.

Joseph Goodman of the Miami Herald has put together an interesting article recalling last year’s series and how this time round things could be very different thanks to Miami’s supporting cast.

Eastern Conference Finals Appearances

While Miami has become a regular in the Eastern Conference finals, Indiana has historically recorded more East finals appearances than the Heat.

The Pacers have advanced to the conference finals on six occasions, recording a 17-22 (.436) record. However, the team from the Hoosier state has advanced just once, defeating New York in 2000 before falling to the Lakers in the NBA finals.

Despite having gone 1-5 in conference finals series, the Pacers have always played a tough game. Three times (1999, 2000, 2004) the side has played a six-game series, and three times (1994, 1994, 1998) it has played a seven-game series. For those expecting Miami to make short work of this series, it might be time to reevaluate.

Miami has made five Eastern Conference finals appearances, posting a 3-2 record. Those three series wins have come at the last three times of asking (2006, 2011, 2012).

The Heat is 16-14 (.533) all-time in games played within the Eastern Conference finals.

Series Betting Options

MIA_IND_GamesBovada is offering a variety of betting options ahead of the Eastern Conference finals.

Miami continues to be the heavy favorite to win the NBA championship, with odds currently standing at 1/3. Indiana (16/1) is a longshot, behind both the San Antonio Spurs (4/1) and the Memphis Grizzlies (10/1).

The series is expected to finish at American Airlines Arena (5/7) and not Bankers Life Fieldhouse (11/10), with Game 5 being the favored choice of bookmakers. But bettors beware; as we’ve seen above, Indiana has a habit of extending six Eastern Conference finals to six games or more.

Bovada also has a selection of player props for bettors to consider.

Will LeBron James average 26 1/2 points during the series?

Will LeBron James average 26 1/2 points during the series?

Game 1 Betting Options

Indiana Pacers vs. Miami Heat odds for 5/22/13 (Game 1) are available now.

Miami opens as the favorite at home with the spread opening at 8 1/2. Picking one team or the other to cover might be trickier than you think though.

Miami (6-3-0 ATS) has fared well against the spread this postseason, but the Heat is just 2-3-0 ATS when playing at American Airlines Arena. Meanwhile, Indiana (8-4-0 ATS) – another team that has played the spread well during the playoffs – is only 2-4-0 ATS on the road. That being said, the Pacers are 2-0-0 ATS in series openers this postseason while Miami is 1-1-0 ATS.

During the regular season, Indiana was 2-1-0 ATS when playing Miami. The Heat was favored in every game.

The over/under opened at 183 1/2. Indiana (7-5-0) is favoring the offer this postseason while Miami (3-5-1) is favoring the under. Both are opposing trends to that which was recording in the regular season.

During three regular season games, the total went over twice and under once.


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