Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, May 17, 2014 at 5:00 PM
It’s not a surprise that the Miami Heat will be battling the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference Finals. This was long expected to be the matchup. Indiana made things interesting with a second half swoon that seems just as unbelievable in retrospect as it was when it was happening. But, they did manage to get past Atlanta and Washington in the watered down East. And, the home court advantage they earned with a great first half of the season is still in their back pocket entering the series.
Let’s have a quick refresher for how these teams performed in our key stats of emphasis. You can’t handicap the series unless you know the true strengths and weaknesses of the teams!
Miami: 109.0 per 100 possessions (ranked #2 in the NBA)
Indiana: 101.5 per 100 possessions (ranked #22 in the NBA)
Miami has a fantastic offense, which is hidden by their very slow pace…and tendency to coast when things are going well. It’s scary to think what they could accomplish if there were any regular season rewards for posting bit offensive numbers. Once you adjust for ace, “coasting” Miami is still #2 in the NBA in points per possession. Indiana has struggled on offense this season…and REALLY struggled during their slump. Just a flat mismatch in terms of putting the ball in the basket.
Miami: 102.9 per 100 possessions (ranked #11 in the NBA)
Indiana: 96.7 per 100 possessions (ranked #1 in the NBA)
Indiana has a chance to be competitive in the series because the defensive side of the floor is a bit of a mismatch the other way. It’s easier to see that in the point differentials than the rankings. Miami is +7.5 points per 100 possessions better on offense, while Indiana is +6.2 points better defensively. Still an overall edge to Miami. But, not a blowout. They key for handicappers will be determining how much better Miami gets when going full speed (which you saw early in the Brooklyn series before they started coasting again), and whether or not Indiana’s better recent chemistry will help their offensive productivity.
That’s right, Indiana is the “fast” team in the series. Both teams are slow…but Miami is REALLY slow in the playoffs because they know they can score on anybody in the halfcourt (plus, it saves their energy for a long playoff run!). Get ready for a wrestling match. That’s what both teams want to play.
Against the Spread
Miami: 37-43-2 (6-3 in the playoffs)
Indiana: 38-43-1 (7-6 in the playoffs)
Both teams lost money during the regular season for their backers. Indiana was something like 5-30 ATS over an extended period…which gives you a sense of how great they were vs. expectations in the first half of the season. Miami is always high priced, and rarely motivated to win blowouts. You can see that Miami kicked things up a notch in the playoffs, covering now at a 67% rate in the postseason. Indiana certainly got things back on track at least after that long, hideous stretch.
Las Vegas Line: Miami by 2.5, total of 181.5
Remember, Indiana is the HOME team. So, the market is giving a lot of respect to the Heat here. If Miami is -2.5 on the road…then they’ll be about -7.5 of -8.5 at home most likely. The differential in Miami games from site to site is smaller than for other teams because they play so well on the road. Assume Miami would be about -5 at a neutral site…then determine whether or not the perceived advantage is justified based on the indicators in play.
JIM HURLEY has been handicapping ALL SEASON with the expectation that it would be Miami/Indiana in the Eastern finals. He’s been studying the possibilities from all angles since November. And, he’s ready to make some major calls right off the bat. You can purchase the final word for Sunday (basketball and baseball) right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions, call us Sunday before the games start at 1-888-777-4155.
Back with you Monday for Game One of Thunder/Spurs in the Western Finals. We’ll run these categories for you, and talk about the likely impact that the loss of Serge Ibaka will have on Oklahoma City. Tuesday will bring Game Two of Heat/Pacers. We’ll review what was learned in Game One and talk about what that means for the rest of the series.
The conference championships are about to begin. When championships are on the line, YOU NEED WORLD CHAMPION HANDICAPPER JIM HURLEY!