Just when it looked like the Miami Heat had solved their Indiana Pacers problem, the Eastern Conference Finals took a new twist. Now with the series knotted at two games apiece, the NBA betting community waits anxiously as their prodigal favorite faces its toughest challenge of the season.
Make no mistake, the Heat are still the team to beat on any NBA futures with 4-9 odds of winning the championship, but the fact that the Pacers have played them so closely through the first half of their semifinal series — and that the Spurs clinched the West in a dramatic four-game sweep — is concerning.
In Game 4 of the series, Indiana exercised its vaunted defense, holding Miami to 49 percent shooting from the field. LeBron James shot a measly 8-18, suggesting that he may actually be mortal after all.
In the previous three, James enjoyed a more routine 55.7 shooting percentage from the field, in line with the 56.5 percent he shot over the course of his 2012-13 MVP campaign.
More players than just James struggled, however, and that?s more a testament to Indiana?s defensive prowess than simply an off day for Miami. Dwyane Wade?s 5-for-15 from the field, along with Chris Bosh?s 1-for-6, is demonstrative of a team that doesn?t quite have it all figured out.
With Paul George wreaking havoc on the perimeter and big man Roy Hibbert edging closer and closer to stardom with each passing playoff quarter, these Pacers have started to show that not only are they the best of the rest, but also a legitimate threat to the reigning champions.
Since their victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder in the 2012 Finals, the Heat have been the top choice to come through in 2013. One can?t help but blame the Miami supporters for latching onto their bandwagon seat and never letting go.
Such expectations, though, make Miami?s pursuit of a second straight title all the more nerve-wracking. While the Pacers have earned genuine respect from basketball minds worldwide, few considered them in the same class as the Big Three-powered Heat.
As the series shifts back to Miami for Game 5, expect much of the same. If we learned anything in the first four games, it?s that home court isn?t particularly advantageous when each opponent is capable of knocking off either on any given evening.
Perhaps the truest test of Indiana?s validity is how their defense capitalizes on their solid Game 4 performance. If they can keep James shooting less than 45 percent from the field, it?s hard to imagine the results being anything but in their favor.
Then again, did we mention that happened just seven times in 76 regular season games this year?
This post is presented by Bovada.