Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, May 22, 2013 at 7:00 AM
Time to run the Eastern Conference Championship round through our gauntlet of key indicator stats. After a short layoff, the Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat take the floor Wednesday Night to begin what promises to be a very interesting best-of-seven series.
Please remember that all stats are from the regular season only, to help stabilize sample sizes for games played and caliber of opposition.
WON-LOST RECORDS VS. .500 OR BETTER
Miami was dominant this year across the board, even though it was clear they were coasting at times to save themselves for the postseason. Indiana had trouble vs. quality during the regular season…but they have picked up the pace in the playoffs against Atlanta and the New York Knicks. They must maintain this new level of performance to have any shot at eliminating the Heat.
OFFENSIVE EFFICIENCY RANKINGS
Miami had the best offense in basketball on a per-possession basis. LeBron James is a force of nature. This year’s team did a better job of finding role players who can make open looks whenever a defense double teams James or Dwyane Wade on a drive. They’ve become a scoring juggernaut. Indiana is a shade below league average, but they have shown signs of improvement during playoff stretches. A few players are stepping up at just the right time. No way the Pacers are now top 10….but they’re probably a little better than average.
DEFENSIVE EFFICIENCY RANKINGS
Indiana graded out as the best defense in the NBA this year on a per-possession basis. Some might argue Memphis was better once you adjusted for strength of schedule. Either way…Indiana was GREAT. Miami ranked seventh even though they clearly backed off in certain games this season when they were comfortably ahead, or just pacing themselves for the long haul. Miami probably has a top five defense in terms of “playing when it matters.” Slight edge to Indiana…but not as big as some in the media would have you believe.
REBOUND RATE RANKINGS
Indiana is a true “defense and rebounding” team in the best sense of the term. Miami has followed the Boston approach of blowing off offensive rebounds to fly back and play defense. This hurts their overall ranking…and will hurt them in this series if they don’t make those jumpers. Indiana is likely to absolutely own the defensive boards in most games.
The media still paints Miami as a fast team because they have some great fast break dunks every so often. Indiana is seen as slow and plodding. Yet, you can see above that these two teams played at almost the exact same pace this season. Miami only runs when it’s there…knowing they have a big advantage over most any defense in a halfcourt set. Maybe they’ll try to run more here because Indiana is so big inside. That’s something to pay attention to as the series progresses. You’ll want to play Unders if nobody’s running. You’ll want to think about Overs if Miami is able to pick up some cheap points off steals.
Miami is a heavy favorite because they’re the defending champs…they have the best player in basketball…they have home court advantage…they have a much better offense and only a slightly worse defense. Indiana does have a pathway to an upset because “defense and rebounding” can trump a lot of shortcomings in the playoffs. It was only good enough to get them two victories when these teams met last year. And, now Miami is better than they were because of roster tweaks.
JIM HURLEY has been working closely with his full team of experts in the days leading up to this series. The scouts and sources have chimed in. The statheads have crunched the numbers. The computer programmers have been running simulations around the clock (it’s been a GREAT postseason for those so far!). Our Wise Guy connections offshore and in Las Vegas are letting us know how the smart money is betting on the side and total. And, it’s all come together for a Wednesday play that will get this series off to a money-making start for NETWORK clients!
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Back with you Thursday to talk baseball as the Grizzlies/Spurs series takes a few days off. Then, we’ll look at Game Two of this Pacers/Heat series in the Friday NOTEBOOK. Key numbers for handicappers are right here online for you every day…as are BIG, JUICY WINNERS from JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!