Don’t Insult The King
You rarely see a player talk trash after two straight losses in the Eastern Conference Finals, but leave it to the enigma that is Lance Stephenson to do just that. After calling out Lebron James before Game 4, Stephenson not only was a no-show in Game 4, but James went off and carried to Heat to victory along with his wingman, Chris Bosh. LeBron James was incredibly efficient at 13-21, going for 32 points, 10 rebounds and five assists, while Bosh was hot early and ended with 25 points.
Even going back home will likely not help the Pacers, because after winning Game 1 in dramatic fashion, the Pacers have slowly slipped back into being “Bad Pacers.” Ever since that win, the Pacers have looked progressively worse, and it culminated in Game 4. Once again Roy Hibbert was possessed by the little aliens from outer space that stole his powers, while Stephenson was a no-show as well with only nine points in Game 4.
As we head back to Bankers Life Fieldhouse, the Heat are -2 favorites in the NBA Odds, with a total of 184 points. After cashing with the Heat for a second straight game, I am once again willing to go back to laying points with Miami. The Pacers are completely psyched out by the James and the Heat, and going back home likely won’t solve anything. Miami’s small lineup has broken the Pacers, and after refusing to go small for four straight games, Frank Vogel might have no other option on Wednesday night.
The Sharp Pick
Miami is now 5-1 ATS in their last six games against the Pacers dating back to late this past regular season, and it seems they have the upper hand in almost every scenario. In their last ten playoff games, the Pacers are giving up around 97 points per game, which is far above their season averages. Indiana is simply not good enough offensively to overcome their defensive mishaps across this series, and with the Heat’s defense likely intensifying in an elimination game, the Pacers are basically looking at two different ways to be taken out in Game 5 at home.
If they stay big, the Heat will go to their shooting lineup and three-ball their way to victory on the road. If the Pacers finally decide to go small and put Hibbert into a “Kendrick Perkins,” sort of role with Luis Scola getting more minutes, the Heat will counter with their small lineup and force either Scola or David West to guard a perimeter player or worse, James.
If you’ve ever played chess, most of the time you can tell if the end is near, whether you are on the winning or losing side. You or you’re opponent are out of options, pieces and maneuvers, and your weaknesses have been exposed. This is exactly what is going on in this series, and by my account, the Heat at -2 still has value for our NBA picks. I don’t see any miraculous comeback in the Pacers’ cards, and that includes Game 5. The Heat have outclassed the Pacers in more ways than one this series, and I think the pre and post Game 4 comments from Stephenson and George are perfect examples of that. Even though they are 8-9 ATS in the playoffs, including the playoffs the Pacers are 17-37 ATS since the start of the month of February. Lay the points with the Heat in Game 5.
My Pick: Heat -2