The Indiana Pacers were just 2.2 seconds away from pulling off an upset in Game 1 of the NBA’s Eastern Conference Finals. The question is now is whether they blew their best shot of beating the Miami Heat, or if the champions are truly vulnerable.
We might find out on Friday night, when the two reconvene for Game 2. The Heat must try to avoid the need for another late save from LeBron James, whose last-gasp score saw Miami to a 103-102 overtime victory on Wednesday.
The Pacers were already confident that the best-of-seven series wouldn’t be the walkover many expected and will be even more emboldened now. They remain 6.85 to advance through to the NBA Finals but Indiana know they are truly capable of causing the title favourites some concerns.
Many of Miami's problems, however, were self-inflicted. The Heat’s shooters were woeful last time out. As was Udonis Haslem. While neither team played with great fluidity as the turnovers and fouls mounted up, it was Miami who looked well short of their best and Indiana who, but for one final slip, looked impressive.
History is still against them. According to Elias, when a team loses Game 1 of a seven-game series in OT, they only come back to win out 20% of the time. And the odds are that we’ll see the Heat ignite on the perimeter at some stage.
That’s why Miami are favoured by -7.5 points on the handicap at 1.91, with their opponents at 3.75 to draw level. This is still a match-up in which the Pacers defence must keep the total score below the total points line of 180.5 to have a chance of victory. But it would be little surprise if James and the Heat have just enough to prevail.
Best bet: Take Indiana over Miami on the handicap of +7.5 at 1.91