Thu, Dec 19, 8:08am by Daryl Curnow
Where: AmericanAirlines Arena, Miami, Florida
When: 1:00pm, December 19.
Record: Heat 18-6 (11-2 Home) vs Pacers 20-4 (9-3 Away)
Wager with: Ladbrokes.com.au and get $250 worth of free bets
IN a rematch of last seasons Eastern Conference finals, the Indiana Pacers take on the Miami Heat.The two time defending champions have started their season in less demanding fashion than in the previous two years, but they still travel well with a good record. They take on the high flying Indiana Pacers who boast the NBA’s best record with 20 wins and four losses. The outcome of this game will likely depend on the availability of LeBron James, who is a game time decision after spraining his ankle against in the third quarter against Utah.
The four-time MVP hasn’t missed a game all season and is in serious doubt for this matchup against an Indiana team that has given them problems in the past. It took Miami seven games to get past the Pacers in the Eastern Conference finals last season and Indiana has improved since. The Pacers will be looking to rebound from their first home loss of the season which came against Detroit 101-96. Looking to step up on that poor performance is Paul George, who was recently named the second best player under the age of 25. The small forward is averaging 23.8 points per game and if LeBron James is absent, he will get better opportunities to improve on that statistic.
Indiana started their season with a nine-game winning streak before losing to a Derrick Rose-less Chicago Bulls. They then won their next seven and quickly put that defeat behind them, with Paul George totaling 31 and 35 in two of those games. They have lost their last three from seven but two of those losses came away from home against Portland and Oklahoma City. The toughest thing about playing the Pacers is their average points allowed stat. They only allow their opponents to an average of 90 points per game, which ranks first in the league. The Pacers defense is anchored by Roy Hibbert who averages three blocks per game and 8.8 rebounds. The massive 7’2” centre scored 24 points against Miami in their previous encounter this season and if he can replicate that performance, they are unlikely to get beaten.
Indiana rank middle of the pack with 20.6 assists per game and also 20th in points scored, but rank 10th in rebounds with 44.0 per game. The Pacers will be looking to slow the tempo down and stop Miami from creating fast break opportunities. If they can control the pace and force Miami to making jump shots, Indiana have a great shot at making it 2-0 against the defending champions.
The Miami Heat have won their last two games since losing to Indiana 90-84 earlier this month but they could be without their star power forward for this matchup. However, even without James the Heat still possess many weapons that can overhaul any defense. Dwyane Wade is shooting at a good clip with 19.2 points per game and Chris Bosh is providing both good offense and defense. The Heat is 11-2 at home and will be tough to beat if James plays. He is averaging 25.3 points per game with 6.8 rebounds per game and that’s needed for the Heat who has ranked lowly at 30th overall with only 35.9 rebounds per game.
The Heat have a good record because they are sixth in points allowed and points scored, which makes it tough on their opponents to find a weakness. Miami have lost Michael Beasley to a hamstring injury just hours ago and the small forward was adding good offense of late. He averaged 13.2 points per game in their last 10 and he provided the Heat good offense off the bench. He could have covered for James if he is missing for this clash but now the considerably smaller Norris Cole will have to step up in his absence.
Apart from their loss to Indiana, the Heat has won their past four convincingly with wins coming against Minnesota, Detroit, Cleveland and Utah. However, they suffered back-to-back losses prior with a 10-point loss coming to Detroit, followed by a 20-point drubbing at the hands of Chicago. The Heat simply don’t look as indestructible as in previous seasons.
Points: LeBron James (25.3)
Rebounds: LeBron James (6.8)
Assists: LeBron James (6.5)
Steals: Dwyane Wade (1.9)
Blocks: Chris Anderson (1.3)
Points: Paul George (23.8)
Rebounds: Roy Hibbert (8.8)
Assists: Lance Stephenson (5.0)
Steals: Paul George (2.0)
Blocks: Roy Hibbert (3.0)
We think the Pacers can get in to the minds of the Heat with another win here, even if LeBron James plays and they are at good value for this. They have the big man Roy Hibbert to dominant in the paint and outside shooting with Paul George, who has stepped up his game since last season. The Pacers are a well rounded team looking to bounce back from their recent loss and they will want to establish a winning record over the Heat to take to the finals later this season.
The Heat are two-time defending champions for a reason and it’s not all because of LeBron James. They have an all round talented lineup and any number of players can step up in James’ absence if he’s not to play. The Heat holds a dominant home record and they have one of the best coaches in the league. They will be looking to get revenge on their loss to the Pacer three games ago with a solid win here.
Head-to-head: Heat @$1.63, Pacers @$2.28
The $1.92 line: Pacers +3 at Ladbrokes.com.au
Total points over/under: Over 188.5 @$1.89
We think there is very good value with the Indiana Pacers at $2.28 as they look to establish that they are the best team in the Eastern Conference. They won well against the Heat three games ago and they are relatively healthy compared to the Heat. Hibbert has the ability to dominate in the paint and George is improving vastly from the outside.
Orlando vs Utah
Orlando are doing considerably well this season compared to their expectations we favour them here at home against a hopeless Utah side. Utah haven’t shown any fight this season and their inexperienced team is under pressure. Orlando should do it easy here at home.
Boston vs Detroit
Despite a lack of early season form, the Boston Celtics have rallied well and they are home underdogs against Detroit. The Pistons are also going quite well but they are inconsistent and we favour the Celtics to continue their decent form with a solid win at home.
Pacers line (+3) @$1.92
Orlando line (-4.5) @$1.92
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