Submitted by Jim Hurley on Tuesday, May 20, 2014 at 7:00 AM
It wasn’t a shocker that the Miami Heat lost Game One of the Eastern Conference Finals to the Indiana Pacers. They were only favored by a bucket, and that’s almost a coin flip. What WAS a stunner was their lack of defense all day long. It may have been the worst full-game defensive effort we’ve ever seen from Miami in a game that mattered. And, that’s saying something because this team loves to coast!
Indiana scored 107 points in a slow-down game. There was virtually no tempo here except in the cases where Miami intercepted a pass and ran to the rim for a dunk. Indiana scored very easily out of its halfcourt sets (an amazing development considering the past three months!), hitting 55% of their two-point shots, and 42% of their treys (which is like 63% on two’s). Open look after open look.
When they weren’t getting open looks, they were getting FOULED! Miami was either invisible, or a step late defensively. Indiana went to the free throw line 37 times (compared to just 15 for Miami), and made 29 of those 37 attempts.
Miami losing wasn’t that big a surprise. Miami letting what had been a slumping Indiana offense score at will was a major development. And, it could cast the Eastern finals in a whole new light.
*We already know that Indiana plays championship caliber defense. Even during the worst of their slump, they were having long stretches where they were getting a lot of stops. During their hot first half of the season, they were a defensive juggernaut.
*We already know that Indiana rebounds at a championship level, particularly when they’re dialed in. The Pacers won the battle of the boards 38-29 Sunday afternoon, and are likely to own this stat through the series given Miami’s lack of priority on the offensive glass. The “defense and rebounding wins championships” angle was always going to favor the Pacers. Their offense had been so far behind championship standards in past years…and then during their slump…that you couldn’t yet pencil them in to go the distance.
*If Indiana can now make a run at a true shooting percentage of 50% or better in this series because Miami’s defense isn’t up to snuff…and the Pacers only have to do that three times in the next six games…then the Heat’s Three-Peat may get derailed before the championship round.
Game One may have been a fluke. Indiana usually won’t hit six of their first seven treys. Miami usually isn’t THAT bad on defense, even when coasting. We will surely see more intensity from the Heat Tuesday Night and the rest of the way. But, there’s now a legitimate question as to whether Miami is good enough to justify the market’s lines from this point forward. Miami -2 on the road, and -7 or -8 at home was the pre-series scenario. Suddenly, it’s possible those are at least three points too high (more in Indianapolis).
Let’s see what oddsmakers have posted for the sequel.
Las Vegas Line: Miami by 2.5, total of 194
The public loves betting the bounce back, particularly when it’s a pre-series favorite coming off a loss. And, historians have quite a few examples now of Miami playing very well after a bad effort. So, we have this line rising from the series opener to a point that’s still 13.5 points away from the scoreboard result. Tough choice for handicappers. Will improved effort from Miami mean they lose by 3-5 points instead of getting drummed? Or, will the Heat re-establish that they’re the favorites to win the East…and even to go the distance to claim their third title?
JIM HURLEY has been working very closely with his on-site sources to get a true read on both teams. If Indiana is suddenly in synch (helped by asking Andrew Bynum to leave and finding out that Evan Turner being in street clothes is best for the team), then the Pacers could be an absolute steal moving forward. But, if Game One was just a shooting fluke keyed by soft Miami defense, then order will be restored quickly, and Miami will coast past the Vegas number.
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Back with you Wednesday for Game Two of the Oklahoma City/San Antoni series. Wednesday will bring Game Two from OKC/San Antonio. We’ll move to baseball previews Thursday and Friday, because those are off days in the NBA. We’ll probably be looking at the series finale of Milwaukee/Atlanta Thursday (suddenly a playoff preview with historical implications!), and a weekend series involving contenders on Friday.
A very important chapter in the 2014 championship chase will be written Tuesday Night in Indianapolis. When championships are on the line, YOU NEED WORLD CHAMPION HANDICAPPER JIM HURLEY!