NBA Re-Starts After Week Long All-Star Break

The NBA returns from his All-Star break on Thursday with just two games on the calendar but bigger slates of games will tip off on Friday and Saturday.

A number of teams in the NBA would have preferred if the season would have not stopped for the All-Star break. LeBron James and the Cavaliers were on a roll winning 14 of their past 16 games prior to the break and the last loss was to Chicago the night prior to the break and some say the Cavs might have being looking ahead to a week off.

James was consulted last season by Adam Silver, the NBA commissioner, about extending the All-Star break. James said he had a say in it and thought everybody would benefit in the league.

James, in theory should be right, as it gave players a chance to have an extended rest with the majority of teams not practicing until this past Wednesday.

Overall, the advantages outweigh any disadvantages, but disadvantages still do exits. If teams have a difficult time getting back into a rhythm it could be disastrous for them down the stretch.

Chicago exits the All-Star break with the longest active winning streak in the NBA with four straight. Milwaukee and Toronto have each won 8 of their past 10. Memphis is the only Western Conference team to be that hot of late. It will be interesting to see how the Spurs, Mavericks and Rockets can start pressuring the Grizzlies for second place in the conference.

The Grizzlies do not start again until Sunday night in Portland. Each team starting this stretch run has between 26 and 31 games left on their regular season schedule.

The NBA re-starts with Dallas playing at Oklahoma City and San Antonio visiting the Los Angeles Clippers. OKC has battled its way back to within a half game of Phoenix for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West.

San Antonio, Dallas and the Clippers all have lost 19 games and are holding down the 5 to 7 seeds at the moment.

The West is by far the deeper of the two conferences with the tenth place New Orleans Pelicans one game over .500, while the East has just six of its 15 teams over .500.

Odds maker have kept Cleveland at or near the top all season thus far in the futures and the Cavaliers are currently at the top with Golden State at 7 to 2 to win the title.

Heat Look to Even Things Up Tonight in Texas

Birdman
Birdman
Chris 'Birdman' Andersen has to contribute more to even the bench discrepancy against the Spurs.

I would really like to do my best to focus on the basketball rather than LeBron James’ cramping problems but that will be hard to avoid because his absence made a significant difference in the outcome of game one. That said, every player on the floor had to deal with the 90 degree conditions so using that as an excuse will not fly with me.

Hopefully game two is less dramatic in terms of anything other than basketball. Let’s discuss it…

Miami at San Antonio (-4.5), Spurs Lead 1-0 – I’m throwing this out there right now; I fully expect LeBron James to have a monster game tonight in game two. The consistently negative attention, social media mockery and overall questioning of his mental and physical toughness will motivate him to a huge performance. Whether that will lead the Heat to a victory or not is uncertain, but I like him having a big night.

LeBron
I look for LeBron to have a monster game tonight in game two.

Two interesting stats that came out of the Spurs’ game one victory were points in the paint and fast break points. San Antonio outscored the Heat 48-36 in the paint which isn’t totally shocking but the fact they also outscored Miami in fast break points, 20-19, was a little more unexpected. The Heat is not used to losing the stat but the Spurs tend to get back on defense as well as any team.

One particular area where the Spurs were expected to dominate and did was in bench scoring. San Antonio outscored Miami 34-20 in bench points and with the Spurs being the deeper team this isn’t surprising. Guys like Chris ‘Birdman’ Andersen and Shane Battier need to assist Ray Allen who was the only bench player in double-figures in game one. The Heat needs to find more scoring and rebounding in game two.

Another area I would look for the Heat to address is getting to the free throw line more often. In game one, they took just 11 free throws, making nine and that just isn’t going to do it. When this type of thing happened in the Eastern Conference Finals, the following game always saw Miami get to the free throw line much more often.

The rule of thumb in the NBA Playoffs is that the home team is going to get the bulk of the 50-50 calls and that’s held pretty true so far in these playoffs. That said, officials also reward teams that are aggressive and I have every expectation that will be the Heat tonight.

If you’re looking for the one stat that will force your hand in wagering today than look no further than this one; during the era of the big three, the Heat is 5-0 following game one losses in the playoffs. Consider also that teams in the NBA that take 2-0 leads in the NBA Finals go on to win 90% of the time.

The over/under tonight is 199 and I like the over with Miami needing a big performance being the motivating factor. I also like Miami getting the points. Remember also that the NBA Finals no longer has the 2-3-2 format so game five will be back in San Antonio. The change could be a significant factor in this series.

Keep an eye on… Miami is 2-4 against the spread in its last six games when playing San Antonio… San Antonio is 10-3 straight up in its last 13 games… Miami is 3-16 straight up in its last 19 games when playing on the road against San Antonio… The total has gone OVER in four of San Antonio’s last five games when playing at home against Miami.

Heat Look to Close Out the Pacers Tonight in Indy

Hibbert
Hibbert
Roy Hibbert's hands would be better served by hanging on to the basketball.

The Miami Heat look to become the first team since the mid-1980’s Boston Celtics to earn four straight trips to the NBA Finals when they take the court tonight in Indianapolis. I’ve struggled with this series throughout, I can’t lie about that for a second and I feel just as ‘off’ with tonight’s game as well.

On the surface, this looks like a no-brainer. The Pacers are worried about officiating, whether LeBron James is talking smack and when Roy Hibbert is actually going to show up consistently. Meanwhile, the Miami Heat just keep on trucking. Even without Chris ‘Birdman’ Andersen in game four, the Heat still trailed the Pacers by just two points (40-38) in points in the paint.

LeBron and Dwyane Wade continue to dominate the action when it matters and Chirs Bosh, Ray Allen and others keep on showing up when the team needs them to do so.

Can the Pacers stay alive tonight and force a game six back in Miami? I’m not sure I even know at this point!

Miami (-2) at Indiana, Heat Lead Series 3-1 – One of the major talking points coming out of game four was the disparity at the foul line. The Heat went 30 for 34 from the charity stripe while Indiana was just 11 for 17. Pacers’ star Paul George basically said the Heat were getting all the calls and he’s absolutely right about that.

George
Paul George needs to worry less about the officiating and focus more on scoring and defending.

The more aggressive team in this series has gotten the calls and that was Miami on Monday night. Perhaps George has forgotten that in game one his Pacers had an even more discrepant free throw advantage in what was their only win of the series to this point. More to the point of this discussion is that home teams in the playoffs are going to get more calls than visiting teams will.

It’s been that way for some time and we also know that stars are going to get calls more often than the non-stars will. We may not like and may not want to accept it but it’s a fact of life in the National Basketball Association.

As I said prior to game four, Pacers’ Coach Frank Vogel needs to get Luis Scola on the floor more often. By the time Scola played any meaningful minutes Monday night the outcome was basically in hand. Still, Scola pumped in 12 points in just 14 minutes of action and he needs to get his shot with this team’s back against the wall.

Roy Hibbert’s struggles aren’t just centered on the fact he didn’t score again because he also continues to have butter fingers. Game in and game out Hibbert violates nearly every fundamental of big man play by  bringing the ball down where smaller guys can get it. That, plus he can’t seem to get a grip on the ball either.

It’s time for Scola to get his shot because the Heat have struggled to find a guy who can handle him but Scola can’t do things by himself. Paul George, David West and Lance Stephenson all need to have their best games tonight if the Pacers are to extend the series. The problem is that my faith in this team is shattered.

Take the Heat to cover and advance. I also like the over tonight too.

 

Keep an eye on… O/U is 184… The total has gone OVER in six of Miami’s last seven games… Indiana is 1-4 against the spread in its last five games at home… Miami is 2-4 against the spread in its last six games when playing on the road against Indiana… The total has gone OVER in four  of Indiana’s last five games when playing Miami.

Pacers Face Must-Win in Game Four

Allen
Allen
Ray Allen got hot when the Heat needed him most in game three.

The Miami Heat took a 2-1 lead on Saturday night and perhaps more than that, they look like they suddenly have as much control over the Pacers as they have in a long time. Tonight, as we honor America’s veterans, the Heat will look to take a very commanding 3-1 lead. I’m going to touch on game three a bit because it leads into what has to happen for the Pacers to draw even. Let’s get to it.

Indiana at Miami (-6.5), Heat Leads 2-1 – The Miami Heat found themselves in an early hole in game three but turned it around quickly behind the veteran play of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Ray Allen. Miami trailed by 15 points in the first half before turning it up a notch at both ends of the court. For the Pacers, it was yet another installment of “losing to the Heat when the chips are down.”

The Pacers’ Paul George scored 17 points on 5 for 13 shooting in his return from a concussion suffered in game two. He was the team’s leading scorer as once again the Pacers were outscored in the paint by Miami 40-38. Frankly, this just shouldn’t be happening. Although Roy Hibbert has played better since his disappearing act through the first series and half, he still is not nearly as dominant as he should be.

Vogel has to be better with this in-game adjustments tonight.My other concern for the Pacers now is the fact that Frank Vogel is being outcoached at almost every turn. His team seems to start well but when in-game adjustments are necessary, he is losing the battle to Heat Coach Erik Spoelstra. Arguments could easily be made that the talent Spoelstra is dealing with is better but that isn’t the point here.

Indiana is more than capable of winning this series but the adjustments just aren’t happening. Both Hibbert and David West were -21 in game three which tells me that both, and especially Hibbert were on the floor too long. Vogel has to recognize things sooner. Miami went to an incredibly small line-up which was having success and Vogel waited far too long adapt. Game three was not the first time this happened either.

If you’re looking for an X-factor for Indiana it has to be Luis Scola. The problem is that Frank Vogel has to allow Scola to stay on the court. He was a big factor in the first half of game three but then disappeared in the second half and I don’t necessarily blame him for that. Vogel has to keep the hot-hand on the floor.

I had Indiana winning this series in seven games and while that is still possible, I have lost a tremendous amount faith in their ability to do so. The Heat have shot over 50% in all three games of this series and that’s against a Pacers’ team that arguably is the best defensive team in the NBA. Indiana can ultimately pick things up on the offensive end of the court if they pick up the D first.

This is the ultimatum game for me and Indiana. I expect their best effort this evening so take them getting the points and I also like the UNDER this evening as well.

 

 

Keep an eye on… Indiana is 8-17 against the spread in its last 25 games on the road… Miami is 5-0 straight up in its last 5 games when playing at home against Indiana… Indiana is 1-4 against the spread in its last five games when playing Miami… The total has gone OVER in seven of Miami’s last nine games when playing at home against Indiana… O/U is 183.5

Heat Are 6.5 Chalk at Home versus Pacers

The NBA playoffs tip off Monday night from south Florida when the Miami Heat hosts the Indiana Pacers in Game 4 of their best of seven Eastern Conference finals series.

Indiana let a great opportunity to win home court advantage back getaway on Saturday. Tonight the Pacers need a win to tie the series or they will fall behind 3-1 and be on the brink of elimination.

Indiana led Game 3 early opening up a lead of 19-5 during the first quarter of play. However, the rest of the way, the Pacers were outscored by 24 points and lost by 10.

Miami has been outrebounded by Indiana as the Pacers are a superior rebounding team, but in Game 3, the teams tied with 29 rebounds apiece. Miami also was the leader in points in the paint with 40 to Indiana’s 38.

In this head-to-head series, Miami is 16-11 SU and 14-13 ATS over the past three seasons. At home, the Heat has been a dominating force in the head-to-head series with a record of 16-3 SU and 12-7 ATS.

Nevertheless, according to data from Bovada and betonline, the Pacers on the road this year are 26-22 SU and 22-26 ATS.

According to information gleaned from topbet and sporstbook.com, Indiana is 31-17 ATS following a road loss over the past two seasons.

This season Miami is just 22-24-1 ATS playing at home, but a strong 38-9 SU.

While Miami is just an average 32-35-3 against the number on less than two full days of rest this year, the Heat is 10-2 against the spread playing five games or less over a span of 14 days.

In this series, Indiana is averaging 92.3 points per game. In the regular season, Indiana averaged 97 points per game.

All five Indiana starters are scoring at least 12 points per game with Paul George leading the team with 18 points, 6 assists and 4 rebounds per game.

Miami was great offensively this season with 102.2 points per game average. However, with the tough Indiana defense, Miami is scoring just 94 points per game.

Both LeBron James and Dwayne Wade are averaging 24 points per game in the series, with both scoring 73 points over the three games.

The Pacers have had a tough time holding onto leads and closing out Miami late in the game. If the games were just three periods, the Pacers might be 3-0 in the series.

Nevertheless, the Pacers are down 2-1 thanks to falling apart in the fourth quarter in Games 1 and 2.

Pick: Indiana will show they belong. I like the Pacers 98-91.

Can Ibaka Play?… And Roger Goodell Faces Serious Decisions With Discipline

Ibaka
Ibaka
Serge Ibaka wants to play, but what affect can he have if still less than 100%?

San Antonio Spurs’ Head Coach Gregg Popovich has been pretty insistent about his thinking regarding Oklahoma City’s Serge Ibaka. Popovich has said all along that he thinks the Thunder’ big man will return before the end of this series. It now looks like Popovich has been right all along.

Although Ibaka has yet to be cleared by team doctors, he said as of last evening that he’d be willing to play through the pain. As courageous as this sounds, Ibaka has not even run on his strained calf since injuring it in game six against the Los Angeles Clippers. To say that Ibaka would be less than 100% would be an understatement and one has to wonder just how effective he can even be.

The irony of the situation is that Oklahoma City desperately needs him to be in the game. The Spurs have dominated the Thunder in the first two games of the Western Conference Finals and in large part due to the absence of Ibaka in the paint. Regardless of Ibaka’s presence I think this series belongs to the Spurs.

Jim Irsay's punishment will be a major issue for Roger Goodell.Ravens, Roger Goodell and What to do with Jim Irsay

Ever since the time that the Baltimore Ravens made Ozzie Newsome their general manager, they have done about as many things right as any team in the National Football League. On Friday, those good choices and decisions were tarnished by seven minute press conference.

Ravens’ star running back Ray Rice addressed the media for the first time since he was arrested for knocking out his then-fiance in the elevator of a casino. Rice was accompanied by his now-wife and their infant child. Rice gave his apology for his actions and said that he was working towards being a better a person, husband and father.

Part of the problem for the Ravens was the cliche-filled comments by Rice but also the lack of questions allowed by the media. With the incident having happened in February, the media deserved to ask questions but they were not. Also scarring the image of the Ravens was the person in charge of the organization’s Twitter account.

For who knows why, the Ravens decided that ‘live-tweeting’ the Rice press conference would be a good idea. All they did was set domestic violence awareness back about 25 years with a series of bizarre and poorly worded tweets. The early speculation on Rice’s punishment is that the league and Roger Goodell will come down with a suspension that starts at a minimum of three games.

Since Goodell became Commissioner his main focus has been “protecting the shield” and limiting ‘conduct detrimental to the League.’ Goodell has painted himself in a corner in this regard because five years ago he suspended Ben Roethlisberger despite never being arrested and never being charged. Goodell claimed his behavior was ‘conduct detrimental to the League.’

Goodell’s problems don’t end there though because now he has to punish one of the very men who helps pay his salary. Although Jim Irsay’s crimes were reduced last week, Goodell still has to take action. Irsay was arrested for numerous offenses including having prescription drugs that weren’t his and we all know if this were a player, the penalty would be harsh.

If Roger Goodell is going to suspend a player (Josh Gordon) for a year due to marijuana use, then how does he not come down equally as hard on a player like Rice who has struck a woman. Furthermore, what will Goodell do with Jim Irsay? Fining him really doesn’t do much considering his wealth and suspending him probably doesn’t do much either.

My suggestion? Hit him where it really hurts; take away draft choices.

Key Game Three Set for South Beach

George
George
Paul George has been cleared to play but how many minutes can we expect out of him in game three?

Game Three of the Eastern Conference Finals is here so let’s get to it.

Indiana at Miami (-7), Series Tied 1-1 – The first bit of news we need to address from the Eastern Conference Finals is that as of last night, Indiana star Paul George has been cleared to play. If you’ll recall, George took a sot to the back of the head in game two and was diagnosed with a concussion following the Pacers’ loss.

For him to have been cleared, that means he passed all of his post-concussion protocols. Keep in mind that these are not nearly as strenuous as the those in the National Football League but he must have passed them nevertheless. What we must still concern ourselves with in the wagering community however is how much can we expect him to actually play?

I have every reason to believe he’ll be fine and play his normal minutes but unfortunately we won’t really know the answer to that until the game is underway. My advice is proceed as normal as Head Coach Frank Vogel gives an indication on way or another.

Andersen
'Birdman' Andersen was a huge factor in game two. Will that continue tonight?

On any team that has superstars like the Miami Heat do, there are always lesser players who do the dirty work necessary for the superstars and the team to survive. Both the 1990’s Detroit Pistons and Chicago Bulls had Dennis Rodman and the old showtime Lakers had Kurt Rambis. The Heat have several guys who we could possibly label in the same category but Chris ‘Birdman’ Andersen fits better than all of the others.

The tattooed one played 29 minutes in game two off the bench and had just three points but that isn’t the story. He added 12 rebounds (10 defensive), an assist and a block to help LeBron James and Dwyane Wade take the game over late. Perhaps the most impressive number was his +25 while on the court. That number alone speaks volumes of just how important he is to the Heat’s success.

The +25 was a far cry from the +3 Andersen had in game one but even that ranked among the best for all the Heat players. Ultimately, will his play once again dictate whether the Heat win or lose? That’s for you to decide.

Indiana’s advantage going into this series was the size in the paint. Andersen certainly limited that with his rebounding in game two but if the Pacers are truly going to win this series they must have a greater advantage in the front-court. In game two, the Pacers defeated Miami 36-32 in points in the paint.

Shockingly, that was actually an improvement over game one where the Heat outscored the Pacers 54-38. Obviously Indiana still won but as I said, this trend cannot continue. David West has to be better than the 5 for 16 shooting he displayed in game two and Roy Hibbert has to be more of a scoring threat inside as well.

Game three is always a pivotal point in any series and most people love the Heat in this game as they return home with the split they wanted. My thinking is that Paul George will be fine and that, coinciding with the Pacers’ great road record in the playoffs this season has me taking them tonight getting seven huge points.

Take the UNDER tonight as well because I believe the two teams will start deploying tougher defense as the series goes on.

Keep an eye on…. Indiana is 1-7 straight up in its last eight games when playing on the road against Miami… Miami is 5-0 straight up in its last five games at home… Indiana is 8-16 against the spread in its last 24 games on the road… The total has gone OVER in four of Miami’s last five games and tonight’s O/U is 183.

Thunder’s Chances to Return to NBA Finals Getting Dimmer

The NBA Western Conference Finals best of seven series heads to Oklahoma City for Game 3 and 4 with the San Antonio Spurs holding a 2-0 lead over the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Spurs have routed the Thunder in the first 2 games of the series 122-105 in Game 1 and 112-77 in Game 2.

San Antonio has played team basketball with no one star standing out above the others. In Game 1, big man Tim Duncan had 27 points of which 21 came in the first two quarters of the game.

In Game 2, it was the Danny Green and Tony Parker show. The two combined to score 43 points. Green hit seven three-point shots.

The entire Spurs organization should be given credit for what the club has accomplished. What was once just an ensemble group of talented players has been transformed into a perennial title contender.

San Antonio will not beat themselves and for Oklahoma City to recover from their 0-2 hole, they must play nearly perfect basketball.

The Spurs are too deep and have played too long together to let the Thunder return a second time from 0-2 to win the West.

However, before writing off the Thunder, remember they have the league’s MVP in Kevin Durant. They have one of the league’s most explosive point guards in Russell Westbrook.

Even without Serge Ibaka, the Thunder could come back and win over the Spurs, but it is highly unlikely.

In 2012, the Thunder lost their first two games to San Antonio, before winning four straight to win the Western Conference.

During that season, Durant was instrumental in the Thunder coming back from 2-0 down.

In his last two games in that series of 2012, Durant scored 36 points in a Game 4 win and 34 in a Game 6 win.

In Game 2 this year, in just 29 minutes, Durant had 15 points, hitting just 6 of 16 shots from the field and sat out the entire fourth quarter.

Yes, miracles can and do happen, but this time around it looks nearly impossible. Bookmakers Bovada, topbet, betonline and sportsbook.com have the Thunder as the biggest long shot on the board to reach the NBA Finals and win.

Over the past few seasons, the Thunder has turned into an elite defense, but without Ibaka to shut down the middle the defense must collapse and that makes them vulnerable to the outside jumpers. Danny Green was able to score 7 three pointers in Game 2, as an example of just that.

The margin for error is practically zero for the Thunder if they hope to dig themselves out of their 0-2 hole. This weekend will be a true test for them.

If they win Game 3, their possibilities increase, but if they lose Game 3, you can assure yourself that they will be swept in the series by losing Game 4.

Miami Needs to Even the Series With Indiana

Chalmers
Chalmers
Mario Chalmers needs to bounce back with a better game in game two.

It wasn’t so much that Indiana beat Miami in game one,it was how they did it. Strong defense, efficient shooting and good defense led the Pacers to the big win in the Eastern Conference Finals. Now the question is whether Miami makes the right adjustments or whether Indiana takes a 2-0 lead to Miami.

Miami (-3) at Indiana, Pacers Lead 1-0 – Miami Heat All-Star Dwyane Wade was spotted wearing socks yesterday at practice that may have given an indication of his team needs to play tonight. The socks were red, white and blue and featured players from the ‘Bad Boy’ Era Detroit Pistons on them. So what was the message?

Sounds to me like the Heat feel like they need to ramp up the aggressiveness and physicality in an effort to tie up the series before returning to South Beach for games three and four. It concur that it’s probably a pretty good idea.

It wasn’t that Indiana played dirty in game one or that Miami needs to play that way in game two, the idea for the Heat is turn a couple of serious trends around swiftly. First and foremost, Miami needs to get to the foul line. The Heat attempted just 15 free throws while Indiana went to the charity strip 37 times, making 29 of them.

Spoelstra
Miami Head Coach Erik Spoelstra needs to make the right adjustments for game two.

That type of disparity cannot happen again if Miami is going to even this series.

Heat Head Coach Erik Spoelstra has to decide if he is going to go big in an effort to limit the Pacers’ rebounding advantage or stay small knowing the team must shoot better. Going big means more minutes for Udonis Haslem but he isn’t much of an offensive threat.

The other potential big man is Greg Oden who was signed specifically to deal with Roy Hibbert. He is still struggling to get on the court and I think his ship may have sailed for this series. Should Spoelstra decide to stick with his usual line-up and rotation then he’ll need more support from his three-point shooters.

As a team, the Heat were 6 of 23 for 26% from beyond the arc. Chris Bosh was 0 for 5, Mario Chalmers was 1 for 4 while LeBron James was 1 for 5. Chances are good that this type of poor outside shooting will not continue but the Heat can’t just expect it to change. They must create solid, open opportunities.

Indiana Head Coach Frank Vogel has been to this rodeo a few times already and he knows the Heat will make adjustments but to what extent he won’t know until the game flows. Vogel cannot overreact here and make rash moves if the Heat suddenly start clicking. He has to have faith in David West, Paul George and company so that they adjust themselves.

Both Wade and James had decent scoring games in game one but they’ll need significant help in order to even the series. The expectation is that Miami will come out blazing and will even this series but I just don’t think it’s going to be that simple.

I love the Pacers getting the three points tonight. Don’t be surprised to see Indiana go to South Beach with a 2-0 lead.

Keep an eye on… Miami is 1-4 against the spread in its last five games when playing on the road against Indiana… Indiana is 5-14 against the spread in its last 19 games at home… Indiana is 5-0 straight up in its last five games when playing at home against Miami… Miami is 8-2 straight up in its last 10 games.

Heat and Pacers Crank Up Another Crucial Series

LeBron George
LeBron George
Paul George and LeBron James hook up in the Eastern Conference Finals

The Eastern Conference Finals get underway today so let’s skip the small talk and get to it.

Miami (-3.5) at Indiana – The Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers hook up for the third straight year in the Eastern Conference Playoffs yet this meeting seems so odd compared to the previous two. While the Heat are favored once again, this particular match-up was anticipated all season long following last season’s epic seven game series won by Miami.

All of the luster that was supposed to be on this series now that it is here seems to have disappeared. The Pacers have survived to this point despite a disappearing act by their all-star center Roy Hibbert. Paul George has had some great moments in these playoffs but I don’t think anyone is ready to call him an NBA superstar yet.

The Pacers needed seven games to defeat an under .500 Atlanta Hawks team and then were pushed to six games by the Washington Wizards. While I like David West a lot, and I mean ‘a lot,’ he can’t be the guy that carries you game in and game out. Hibbert cannot disappear against the Heat who will no doubt watch hours of video to see what Atlanta was doing to keep Hibbert a non-factor.

Spoelstra
Miami Coach Erik Spoelstra knows the Pacers will no go as easily as some think.

For Miami, the road back to the Eastern Conference Finals has pretty much gone as predicted. No expected much of a challenge from the Charlotte Bobcats who were limited because of star Al Jefferson’s injury issues. Therefore the sweep was not a shocker in any way.

Then came Brooklyn… The Heat entered the second round against the Nets knowing they hadn’t beaten them all year going 0-4. The Heat also knew the history that was against them too. No team in their situation has ever beaten a team that swept them in the regular season. Obviously, Miami could have cared less about history as they beat the Nets in five games.

So what will this series come down to? The rebounding advantage will be with the Pacers, but this isn’t going to be news to the Heat. They will rely on shooting ad high percentage shots to limit that advantage but don’t dismiss the Heat guards crashing the boards a bit to help out.

What Indiana can ill-afford is poor shooting on a regular basis. They are hitting on just 44% of their shots right now and falling below that will be extremely detrimental to their success. The Pacers also need to limit the Heat’s fast break opportunities. That means maintaining the rebound advantage and getting back on defense.

Miami will need the usual performances from LeBron James but he will be challenged on both ends of the court. Dwyane Wade appears to be healthy which is saying quite a bit for this time of year. Chris Bosh could be the real x-factor in this series if he can extend Roy Hibbert out of the paint. That means he needs to hit outside shots with consistency.

There’s a lot of people that expect this series to go Miami’s way because of the struggles Indiana has had through the playoffs but I’m thinking differently. This is where the Pacers have wanted to be for the last 12 months and I think the Indiana team we’ve expected shows up. I like them to steal game one especially getting the points.

Keep an eye on… Miami is 1-6 straight up in its last seven games when playing on the road against Indiana… Indiana is 17-8 straight up in its last 25 games at home… Indiana is 1-4 against the spread in its last 5 games at home… Miami is 2-5 against the spread in its last seven games when playing on the road against Indiana.

Prediction: Pacers in seven