With George, Pacers Face Heat
Tip-off at American Airlines Arena is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. ET.
A rare three-day layoff in the series following Tuesday’s Game 2 proved beneficial for Indiana, who was faced with an injury scare that had the potential to derail the side.
After Dwyane Wade’s knee struck the back of his head in the fourth quarter on Tuesday, All-Star forward Paul George suffered a concussion and has spent the last three days following the league’s Return-to-Participation Exertion Protocol.
The Pacers announced Friday that they expect George to play in Game 3, barring any unforeseen circumstances. That’s good news for a team desperate to finally knock Miami off its lofty perch.
George is averaging 19 points, 4.5 rebounds and 6.5 assists during the series and, as expected, has been a vital part of both the Pacers offense and defense. Without him, the side would have been in dire straits. With him, the side is better, although there’s a very noticeable asterisk beside his name thanks to his current health status.
After dominating Game 1 of the series, the Pacers played a tough Game 2. For much of the game, Frank Vogel’s side looked like it was playing with a chip on its shoulder, particularly Lance Stephenson, who finished the game with 25 points.
A chippy game saw the team to and fro with each other, with flops, hard fouls and aggressive behavior all apparent. Roy Hibbert pulled down eight offensive rebounds as Miami again struggled with the Indiana bigs.
But a 10-0 fourth quarter run would prove enough for the Heat to take the game, although things got a little hairy towards the end for LeBron James and Co. as the Pacers cut into a double digit lead and had time to tie the game late.
Eventually the Heat ran out 87-83 victors.
Wade, who was pivotal down the stretch, finished with 23 points, while James tallied 22. Norris Cole has 11 off the bench and Chris Anderson pulled down 12 boards.
With the series switching to Miami, the Heat looks now to be in the driving seat. Eric Spoelstra’s side has gone 7-1 in its last eight home games against the Pacers, and will be confident of leaving with the victory on Saturday.
The Pacers aren’t likely to make it easy though. In fact, the Pacers will try to make things as uncomfortable as possible for Miami.
Expect David West and Roy Hibbert to once more see a lot of the ball, and again give Miami matchup problems. Head coach Frank Vogel will likely see how George fairs early on. If he’s on, all good. If not, expect Stephenson to switch on beast mode. Of course, that’s not necessarily a good thing when it comes to the erratic guard.
Indiana has lost its previous two postseason trips to American Airlines Arena, and seven of 10 all told.
Miami has won seven of the last eight meetings between the teams at American Airlines Arena, including both games this past regular season.
During postseason play, the Heat is 7-3 against Indiana when playing at home, and has gone 2-1 in Game 3 against the Pacers.
While George will take to the court on Saturday, as long as his health is in question it’s hard to bet against the Heat in this one.
The spread opened at 7.5 – the highest of any game in the series so far – but has trickled down to 6.5 over the past couple of days.
Miami (7-4-0 ATS) continues to hold an advantage over Indiana (7-8-0 ATS) against the spread this postseason, after the two sides each covered the spread once during the first two games of the series in Indiana.
Miami has covered the spread in three of the last four head-to-head meetings, but other than that there’s very little to separate the two sides when it comes to spread betting.
The total opened at 183.5 and has dropped one-half point with most sportsbooks.
Miami (8-3-0) has favored the over this postseason while Indiana (5-10-0) has favored the under.
Both meetings between the two teams in Miami in the regular season saw the total go over, a trend that has been true of six of Indiana’s last eight trips to South Florida. The over looks like the smart bet then.
The best-of-seven Eastern Conference finals will remain in Miami for Game 4 on Monday, with tip-off at American Airlines Arena scheduled for 8:30 p.m. ET.
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