The Indiana Pacers have been waiting a year for a second chance at the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference finals after falling in seven games last spring. The Pacers had a rocky road getting back but will finally get their shot at the Heat when they host Game 1 on Sunday. Miami cruised through the first two rounds in a total of nine games while Indiana needed seven games to sneak past No. 8 seed Atlanta in the first round before fumbling past Washington in six.
The Pacers declared before the season that their intention was to secure the best record in the East to ensure that another seventh game against the Heat would be on their home court and stumbled into just that when Miami took its foot off the gas in the final week of the regular season. “Everything is behind us,” Indiana coach Frank Vogel told reporters. “Like we said when we started the playoffs, (first-half record) 33-7 means nothing, How we struggled down the stretch and took a lot of criticism, that means nothing. That’s behind us and this is where we wanted to be.” Miami is gearing up for another physical battle and is not intimidated by starting on the road.
TV: 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC
LINE HISTORY: The Heat opened as 2-point favorites, but were quickly bet to +2.5 and the total opened at 181 and has remained steady.
INJURY REPORT: Pacers - Andrew Bynum (Out, knee)
WHAT THE CAPPERS SAY: "The big question is which Indiana Pacer squad shows up in this series? Is it the same Pacers team that started the season 25-5 SU... or the recent squad that has struggled with a 10-13 SU record since March 3rd? Indiana lost Game 7 at Miami last year, so they fought hard to get the #1 seed this season. Home team is 12-2 SU in the past fourteen head-to-head meetings in this series." - Covers Experts' Steve Merrill
WHAT THE BOOKS SAY: "The Matchup everyone expected and that the Pacers wanted, after stumbling through the first two rounds of the playoffs the Pacers come into game 1 with 4 loses on their home court in these playoffs. We have instilled the Heat as favorites in Game 1 sitting as a 3 point favorite with 72% of the action on the Heat. The Heat are also heavy favorites at -420 to win the series." - Michael Stewart, CarbonSports.ag
ABOUT THE HEAT: Miami crushed Indiana 99-76 in Game 7 at home last season, putting an exclamation point on a back-and-forth series in which neither team managed consecutive wins. LeBron James averaged 29 points in that series and is coming off a semifinals against Brooklyn in which he averaged 30 points on 57 percent shooting. Chris Bosh hit a key 3-pointer in Game 4 against the Nets but is ready to get back to the physical challenge of the Pacers. “It’s back to a wrestling match now,” Bosh told ESPN.com. “For the latter half of the season, that’s how we’ve been playing. So for us, I think it will be a smooth transition.” Heat forward Udonis Haslem is expecting to get more time against a bigger Indiana front line and even center Greg Oden could be of use.
ABOUT THE PACERS: Indiana wanted the matchup with the Heat but hasn’t been very impressive on its homecourt in the postseason. The Pacers dropped two at home to the Hawks in the first round and two to the Wizards in the second, including an embarrassing 102-79 Game 5 loss when they had a chance to clinch the series. David West picked the team up in the clinching game against Washington with a postseason-high 29 points, including eight in the decisive run to end the game. “It’s only going to get tougher,” West told reporters. “We’ve been talking about this series all year. We’ve had a different path than (Miami) had, but we’re here.”
*Pacers are 17-37-1 ATS in their last 55 games overall
*Over is 7-1 in Heat last 8 games playing on 3 or more days rest
*Under is 5-2 in the last 7 meetings
*Heat are 2-5 ATS in the last 7 meetings in Indiana
COVERS CONSENSUS: 69 percent bettors are on the Heat -2.5.