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Game 2 - Pacers at Heat

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Game 2 Picks – Miami vs. Indiana

Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals watched Miami outlast Indiana 103-102 in overtime on Wednesday. The NBA’s Most Valuable Player, LeBron James, lived up to his billing and hit a game-winning layup as time expired in the extra session. Prior to James’ heroics, Indiana built a 102-101 lead with 2.2 second left after Paul George hit three consecutive free throws. After George converted the freebies, most believed the Pacers were about to steal Game 1 and home-court from the Heat.

After suffering such a heart-breaking loss, it makes you wonder how Indiana will respond. Pacers coach Frank Vogel took the setback in stride. "Two great teams just throwing punch for punch," he said." Our spirit is very high, very confident. We know we can play with this basketball team."

Vogel took a lot of heat after the game when he didn’t have All-Star center Roy Hibbert on the floor to protect the rim. He explained that he left the big man on the bench because he was concerned with Miami taking advantage of Chris Bosh’s matchup against Hibbert.

We asked VegasInsider.com handicapper Kevin Rogers if the Heat took Indiana’s best shot?

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He answered, “The Pacers will definitely be kicking themselves for the way they handled the final seconds of the Game 1 loss with Roy Hibbert on the bench.  However, Indiana needed a desperation three-pointer at the end of regulation, then a questionable foul on a three-pointer towards the conclusion of overtime to still have a chance.  I would be surprised if the Pacers grabbed Game 2, but it’s hard to think that Indiana will lay down heading home for Games 3 and 4.”

Rogers is right and anybody watching the game understands that Miami could’ve finished off this game in regulation and probably should’ve. Ray Allen missed a free throw that would’ve extended the lead to four and Miami could’ve put George on the line instead of giving up the game-tying 3-pointer.

Despite losing in Game 1, the Pacers easily covered as eight-point road underdogs. Indiana also covered in both the first-half (+4.5) and second-half (+8.5) as well. For Game 2, oddsmakers opened the Heat as seven-point favorites. Are the guys behind the betting counter respecting Indiana here or are we about to see a run of underdogs in the playoffs?

“The underdogs have cashed in the last two playoff games (including Memphis in Game 2 at San Antonio), as bettors believe Indiana’s defensive prowess can keep them hanging around in Game 2.  Looking back at the last round, the Bulls beat the Heat outright as 13-point underdogs in the series opener, but Miami blew out Chicago in the following game as 13 ½ point ‘chalk.’  Maybe the line drop is saying something here, but the Pacers have won just two of seven road playoff games, while cashing only three times,” answered Rogers.

As Rogers mentioned, the Pacers are now 2-5 on the road in the playoffs and the one-point setback in Game 1 against Miami was the smallest margin while all four of the other setbacks were by double digits. Looking at those numbers makes you believe that Indiana’s effort in Game 1 was an anomaly.

Miami has gone 5-1 at home in the playoffs but it’s just 2-4 against the number. The two games they covered so far, the offense put up 110 and 115 points against the Bucks and Bulls respectively. If you believe the Heat can cover Friday, leaning ‘over’ 93 ½-points on their team total presents value.

Even though LeBron finished with a triple-double (30-10-10) in Game 1, it was bench player Chris Andersen that provided the much-needed energy for Miami.  The “Birdman” led the reserves with 16 points, which was huge considering Ray Allen (4) and Shane Battier (3) combined for seven points off the bench.

It’s hard to imagine Andersen’s production going up in Game 2 after he exceeded expectations in the opener. At the same time, most would believe Allen and Battier will get back on track.  

Rogers believes the pair will have a better effort Friday. He said, “It’s a safer bet to believe Allen and Battier shooting better in Game 2 than Andersen putting up another 7-of-7 effort from the floor.  Allen didn’t look solid from the floor, while missing a key free throw late in regulation that would have put the Heat up by four.  Most of Miami’s success from last season’s title run came from the contributions off the bench, as the Heat can depend on at least five guys that can aid the Big Three in the scoring department.”

As a team, Miami was 16-of-25 (64%) from the free throw stripe and just 27 percent (5-of-18) from 3-point land. Indiana wasn’t much better than Miami, connecting on 28 percent (4-of-14) from downtown and 24-of-32 (67%) free throws.

Indiana wasn’t alone in suffering a tough loss on Wednesday. The other loser was bettors who took the ‘under’ in Game 1. The number closed at 182 and the pair combined for 78 points in the first-half. After watching 50 points posted in the third, you could still give up 54 in the fourth and win. As if it was scripted, they combined for 55 and three of those points came on George’s 3-pointer, which forced overtime. Oddsmakers sent out 181 for Game 2 and the line has already dropped to 180 at most betting shops.

Make a note that the ‘over’ has gone 4-3 in Indiana’s seven playoff games on the road. Bettors watched the ‘under’ go 3-0 in Miami’s first three postseason affairs at home but the ‘over’ has cashed in the last three games from American Airlines Arena.

If you’re looking at an overtime angle, you could lean Miami in Game 2. The Pacers went 1-4 during the regular season off an overtime game while the Heat produced a 5-1 record in the same situation.

Miami was listed a heavy 1/7 favorite (Bet $700 to win $100) to win the best-of-seven series and after taking Game 1, the price on the Heat has been pushed up to 1/9 (Bet $900 to win $100) odds. If you believe Miami will lose the series, you can now grab Indiana at 7/1 odds (Bet $100 to win $700).

Some of you might laugh at that notion but don’t forget that Miami beat Indiana 95-86 in Game 1 of last year’s Eastern Conference semifinals. After that loss, the Pacers responded with victories in Game 2 and 3. Miami still won the series but you the wins by the Pacers set up great hedge opportunities.

Friday’s second installment will start at 8:35 p.m. ET, with TNT providing national coverage.

Game 3 will take place Sunday night from Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

Chris David can be reached at cdavid@vegasinsider.com
 
 

  
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