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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, April 11, 2014 at 7:00 AM

At the simplest level, Friday Night’s TV game matching the Indiana Pacers and the Miami Heat won’t be a preview of the Eastern Conference Championship round…even if those teams are destined to make it that far. Miami is dead tired, playing their fourth game in six days this week. Indiana may or may not be resting its starters (unclear as of publication time).

But, due to stunning recent developments, what was once a foregone conclusion regarding these teams coasting through the early rounds is now very much in doubt. Miami is still the favorite, though they’re starting to play like an old team rather than a juggernaut. Indiana is a mystery inside an enigma surrounded by a potential chemistry explosion.

*Indiana has played at a level consistent with THE WORST teams in pro basketball over the past month.

*Indiana players are having well publicized issues getting along with each other.

*Indiana may have tuned out their head coach, given how unresponsive they were to his adjustments when things started to go bad.

*Indiana is 5-25-1 ATS their last 31 games!

The Pacers team that’s been on the floor the past few weeks would have no chance to advance out of the first round given their hideous level of play. The offense had given up. The defense had slacked off. The talent is still there to go the distance. Are the heart and minds even on the same planet?

Plus, outside the world of these two teams, we have:

*Brooklyn playing some of the best ball in the whole league since the beginning of the new year. And, oh by the way…the Nets went 4-0 against the Heat this season!

*Chicago being right there with them, peaking at just the right time to matter in the postseason.

*Toronto also posting a better record than Miami in 2014, and also representing a threat as a spoiler given their youth and enthusiasm. Miami’s in trouble vs. youth, while Indiana trails the field in enthusiasm.

Let’s keep all that in mind as we run through our indicator stats.

 

Offensive Efficiency

Indiana: 101.3 per 100 possessions (ranked #22 in the NBA)

Miami: 109.6 per 100 possessions (ranked #1 in the NBA)

Miami still has the best offense in the league thanks to the dynamic LeBron James, and the team’s ability to hit treys when defenders converge on LeBron. You’ll have to outscore the Heat to beat them in the playoffs, which will probably involve wearing down LeBron. Indiana is #22 for the season, but has been even worse the past 4-5 weeks. The red flag indicator for a “return” to being a contender will involve the team’s execution on offense.

 

Defensive Efficiency

Indiana: 96.5 per 100 possessions (ranked #1 in the NBA)

Miami: 102.7 per 100 possessions (ranked #11in the NBA)

Indiana was so great defensively in their first 40 games that they still lead the league in defensive efficiency even though they’ve slacked off lately. Miami is at #11. They tend to perform better than that in the playoffs, but worse than that when tired. Again, the key to beating Miami is wearing them down. Memphis and Brooklyn did that earlier this week.

 

Pace Ranking

Indiana: #20

Miami: #27

Indiana does have a chance to use tempo against Miami. You don’t think of Indiana as a fast team. And, they’re not by league standards. They are by Eastern playoff standards. If the Pacers are destined to matter, they’ll need to find more ways to score at speed given their offensive weaknesses in the halfcourt.

 

Against the Spread

Indiana: 36-42-1

Miami: 36-40-2

Indiana was pure gold during their first half of the campaign. Markets could never catch up to how great they were playing. Indiana was 28-12 ATS in their first 40 games. We already told you that they’re 5-25-1 in their last 31.  The market’s either greatly underestimated the, or greatly overestimated them depending on the extreme Pacers pendulum. Miami has trouble beating the number because pointspreads are typically high…and they smartly pace themselves for a long season. This week you’ve seen that the Western contenders make money for their backers. These perceived powers have not.

JIM HURLEY may or may not be featuring this game on his Friday card. There are 13 games to choose from in the NBA, along with a full Major League Baseball schedule. You can always purchase BEST BETS right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions, call our handicapping office weekdays during normal business hours at 1-888-777-4155.

Back with tomorrow with more basketball, as our stretch run race to the playoffs continues. Here’s the likely big game preview schedule for us here in the NOTEBOOK the next few days:

 

Saturday: Phoenix at Dallas (huge in the race for #8 in the West)

Sunday: Baseball break to look at Yankees/Red Sox in ESPN’s Sunday Nighter

Monday: Memphis at Phoenix is the most likely playoff chase choice

Tuesday: New York at Brooklyn if it matters (otherwise baseball)

Wednesday: The biggest matchup on the final night of the regular season

 

Big game analysis here in the NOTEBOOK…then BIG, JUICY WINNERS from JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!

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