NBA Betting: Can Heat Survive Game 5?

The Miami Heat have been outplayed for most of the Eastern Conference Finals by the Indiana Pacers. They will need to raise their level of basketball betting performance in Game 5 of this series on Thursday.

Indiana Pacers @ Miami Heat – Eastern Conference Finals, Game 5

NBA odds. : Miami -7.5

The Pacers can win because…

They own some important matchup advantages against the Heat and are translating those advantages into results. Indiana big man Roy Hibbert is a more developed and polish center compared to 2012. He has more low-post moves, and his level of belief has grown. Hibbert can dominate games more often at this stage of his career; he was a bit too hesitant in 2012. Teammate David West also gives Indiana the kind of heft and savvy in the paint that can really bother Miami, a team that doesn’t always protect the backboard.

The other reason to like the Pacers in this game is that wing Paul George has shown signs of becoming a genuine superstar in this series. Yes, it’s true that George does not yet deserve to be  called a superstar – you have to establish yourself at a high level with great consistency in order to deserve such stature – but George is capable of playing extremely well for extended stretches of time, as shown in his Game 2 performance last Friday in Miami. Indiana is also getting more out of guard Lance Stephenson, while point guard George Hill has proved to be a steady (and steadying) influence for the Pacers as a whole. Indiana’s lack of depth is a concern; the Pacers don’t get a lot out of their bench and can be vulnerable against the Heat if Miami’s role players (Ray Allen, Udonis Haslem, Shane Battier, Norris Cole) are hitting shots. However, Miami’s role players have not enjoyed a great playoff run to this point in time.

The thing to realize about this matchup is that Miami has not been shooting the ball consistently from long range. The Heat flourished in this regard in Game 3, but they have not been able to replicate great games. Indiana played Games 1 and 2 on its own terms, and it regained control of the flow of play in Game 4. Why should the Pacers be distrusted when they’ve dictated three of the four games in this series?

The Heat can win because…

They have the best player on the floor and will be playing at home after a loss. The Heat have LeBron James, the transcendent superstar in all of professional basketball right now. Even when James doesn’t play his best, he’s still an imposing force on the floor with his defense and his passing skills. LeBron did not shoot well in Game 4, but he still enabled Miami to stay close until the final few minutes of regulation. LeBron should be able to get the kinds of shots he wants. As this series remains close heading into the final three games, LeBron should be able to demand the ball more and establish better positions on the floor. LeBron is going to make more of an effort to attack the basket against Paul George and force the Pacers to double-team him, setting up situations in which LeBron’s teammates are going to get a lot of open looks. As long as Miami’s supporting cast can hit a reasonable percentage of threes off LeBron’s passes, the Heat should be in good shape.

The other thing to realize here is that Miami hasn’t lost back-to-back games since January. The Heat have lost only six times at home all season and have been able to defend their home court with distinction. Miami is a resilient team, one that learns the right lessons after it loses. The Heat might get lazy at times, but they use losses as wake-up calls instead of losing confidence. This team has a short memory, one that serves it quite well in pressure situations. Miami head coach Erik Spoelstra made the right adjustments after his team lost Game 2 of this series last Friday. He should be able to make the right counters to Indiana head coach Frank Vogel in this game. One should also realize that Indiana’s shooting was not that impressive in the final quarter of Game 4. The Pacers will have to hit more shots in their initial offensive sets; they can’t depend on offensive rebounds to win on the road. Miami should be able to play with more energy on the defensive glass.

Outlook & NBA Basketball Betting Prediction:

The Pacers aren’t going away, and they’re going to cover the spread in this game. However, Miami just doesn’t lose back-to-back games. The Heat will crank up the energy level and prevail.

NBA Basketball Pick: Indiana +7.5

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