Write off the Indiana Pacers at your peril. After running the Miami Heat ragged in Game 4 of the NBA’s Eastern Conference Finals to level the series at 2-2, another victory on Thursday night would leave the defending champions on the verge of a shock exit.
Of course Indiana will need to win on the road, not their strongest suit, and we can expect the Heat to dust themselves down and re-group.
The Pacers are 4.75 to win this series with Miami at 1.18 to claim the Conference crown for the third consecutive year. But there is a real touch of vulnerability about the cast which surrounds LeBron James, with running mates Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade toiling for consistency.
Instead, it’s the Pacers’ own Big Three of Paul George, Roy Hibbert and David West who have garnered all the attention in Indiana’s rise into the ranks of title contenders. But while the trio of All Stars have been formidable, don’t overlook the contribution of point guard George Hill.
With the fifth-year playmaker on the floor during the regular season, the Pacers had a +/- rating of +7.7, compared to a differential of -3.4 when he was on the bench. With Hill in the fray, his team’s field goal percentage went up 4.7% and their points scoring by 8.2. His impact has been even greater in the post-season where that scoring difference has leapt to 13.4.
As he goes, so does his side. During these play-offs, Hill has notched up 18.2 points per game and shot 46% in Indiana victories and just 10.2 and 30.2% in losses. He’s 1.85 to score over 15 tonight and if he goes above that line, then the Pacers could snatch a 3-2 lead.
They’re 4.15 though to win Game 5, with their rivals favoured by -7.5 on the handicap. We’ve seen already in this series that Miami are capable of pulling out a rout but on the evidence so far, nothing is certain.
Best Bet: Take Indiana to cover the handicap of +7.5 against Miami at 1.91
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