Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, May 29, 2013 at 12:17 PM
This just in: Size matters.
Well, it most certainly does in these on-going and rather heated NBA Eastern Conference Finals where the Indiana Pacers knotted up their best-of-seven series against the defending champion Miami Heat with Tuesday's night's 99-92 victory at the rowdy "Fieldhouse".
No matter who was on the floor for the Pacers, they owned the paint area on offense, on defense and -- most importantly -- on the backboards where Frank Vogel's blue-collar group sported a resounding 49-to-30 advantage on the glass. The Pacers outscored Miami 16-6 down the stretch to get even in this series -- yes, the officials may have played more than just a little part here because the foul calls in the final two-plus minutes read five personals on Miami (including a sixth foul on LeBron James) and zero fouls on Indiana.
Home cooking? Perhaps, but even Miami boss-man Erik Spoelstra knows his guys were not quite as fearsome going to the tin here even though the aforemention James registered a game-high 24 points (on 8-of-18 field-goal shooting) and even though the Heat scored approximately one-third of its points (that's 32 of 92 points, to be precise) in the paint.
The guts of this Game 4 win for Indiana came in the form of 7-foot-2 center Roy Hibbert not taking no for an answer -- the former Georgetown Hoyas star produced a snazzy stat line of 23 points and 12 rebounds and he really dominated the near-the-rim plays for much of the second half -- and than there was the matter of the famed X-factor named Lance Stephenson who not only thoroughly entertained TNT game analyst Steve Kerr with his put-your-head-down-and-go-hrad-to-the-hoop drives but wound up scoring a monstrous 20 points while committing just one single turnover and let us not forget his under-the-skin defense against the likes of James and flop-mesiter Dwyane Wade -- both of whom are growing increasingly annoyed with Stephenson's bang-and-jab antics.
If you want to believe that the Heat -- still a whopping 47-4 overall in its last 51 games dating back to the start of that long regular-season streak that finally ended in Chicago -- just "can't" lose four times in one series to any opponent, than go ahead and believe that but Indiana's Game 4 win was symbolic and significant for other reasons:
The Pacers knew exiting Miami's Game 3's power-packed 114-96 win in "Nap City" that all the momentum was on Miami's side and it appeard nonbody would be able to slow down James with his post-up moves that produced a dozen-or-so points in Game 3 including more than a handful of points on
lefty bank shots from six feet and in. The tables were turned on Tuesday night when James didn't find such clear sailing -- yes, Indiana G Paul George (only 12 points in Game 4 and pretty invisible from the offensive end til midway through the final frame) adjusted his defensive stances against James and got soem weak-side help too but the whole confidence level rose for Indiana when it answered every Miami run.
The really interesting part about Indiana's Game 4 triumph was that the bench didn't make a major impact (11 points and 7 rebounds was nice but nothing to write headlines about, for sure) and the Pacers did drain only 3-of-14 trifecta attempts with the aforementioned George missing on all four of his downtown chucks. The Pacers made their many trips to the foul line count as Vogel's guys pounded out 26-of-33 made free throws and Indiana maintained an ultra-aggressive stance throughout the evening even when those times arose where it appeared Miami would snatch the game away thanks to a James triple or a G Mario Chalmers hoop (see underrated 20-point night).
We'll get you a Game 5 preview in the next Jim Sez -- remember that Miami has the extra home game now here in Game 5 on Thursday night (8:30 p.m. ET tip on TNT) and should there be a need to play a Game 7 next Monday. Than again, we -- along with lots of other media folks -- made a big fuss over the fact the Heat had not lost a road game in this year's NBA Playoffs while heading into Game 4 -- and that's gone up in smoke now -- and mighty Miami already has lost two home games in this post-season including that 97-93 setback in Game 2 of this set versus the Pacers.
Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers have all the Side/Totals winners in these NBA Eastern Conference Finals plus there's lots of Major-League Baseball Winners too when you sign up today - so cash in big with Hoops and Baseball each and every day! Just be sure to check in with us either right here online or else at our toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 for all the daily and nightly NBA and MLB winners.
NBA Playoff Betting Favorites will enter the Pacers-Heat Game 5 with a 39-36 ATS (against the spread) overall mark -- pretty much standard stuff if you've read our Jim Sezmaterial over the years as the chalk and dogs pretty much split the spread verdicts at this late stage of the playoffs but keep in mind in this Conference Finals Round the Betting Favs are a composite 2-6 against the odds. In the Western Conference series between San Antonio and just-buried Memphis, the dogs covered three-of-four spread verdicts including San Antonio's all-business 93-86 win against the 2.5-point favored Grizzlies in Game 4 of that set this past Monday night. The Heat-Pacers series is the same deal with dogs having covered three of the first four games here with Miami's above-mentioned 18-point win in Indiana (as 2-point betting favorites) the lone instance where the chalk side covered the Las Vegas price tag.
So, while NBA Playoff Favs and Dogs are about even, this round the pups have bene braking loudly and given ammunition to folks who thought -- rightly or wrongly -- that not all that much separated the "Final Four" teams.
P.S., the Spurs will continue to rest up, watch games and video on the Heat and Pacers and keep fingers crossed that the Eastern Conference Final goes seven games. Somehow, the "old" Spurs that were pretty much forgotten when these NBA Playoffs first got started now are gaining steam as a club that could well win their fifth NBA crown (1999, 2003, 2005 and 2007) -- just hope the rest of the NBA world doesn't forgte which team won in a sweep in this round and which team didn't (sorry, that's a shot at you Heat gang!)