Indiana Pacers vs Miami Heat (BET and STREAM LIVE on Unibet TV from 00.05 GMT)
As the NBA season progresses, there are sporadic markers to be put down with the Playoffs in mind. On Tuesday night, the Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat square off with the chance to strike a psychological blow.
The two best teams in the East – and probably the whole league – haven’t met since concluding an epic seven-game series in last season’s Conference Finals, when the Pacers came so very close to dethroning their rivals. With a 9-0 record at home, and Paul George emerging as a genuine rival to LeBron James in the MVP stakes, Indiana will not fear the challenge.
Watch highlights of last season's Game 7 between the Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat:
They’re -3.5 on the handicap with Miami at 2.30 for the victory. But even on current form, things might not be so simple for the 18-3 Pacers. The Heat will bring back Dwyane Wade after a three-game break, adding an extra threat for an offense which is already averaging 103.5 points per game and out-scoring opponents by 8.6.
Indiana is also coming off its worst loss so far, a 118-94 drubbing by Oklahoma City, who exposed the Pacers’ defence for the first time. And for all that homecourt advantage to date, every one of the Pacers home wins have come against teams with .500 records or less.
The matchup between James and George will be fascinating with the two All Stars leading the MVP betting at 1.85 and 5.00, respectively. However others will tip the balance. Even though their sides are both in the top three in defensive efficiency, if Wade can bring some extra offense, it could see Indiana forced to fight fire with fire and push the total points line over 190.5. Either way, expect this to be the first instalment in a duel that will go all the way to summertime.
Best bet: Take Miami on the handicap of +3 against Indiana at 1.83.
Read more from Unibet columnist Mark Woods.