Pacers - Heat Game Five Preview

IT'S GAME 5 -- PACERS-HEAT COLLIDE IN NBA EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS: WILL ANGRY MIAMI SHOW ITS FANGS TONIGHT?

Maybe there's more than a few folks out there who think along the lines of ESPN's Stephen A. Smith:

Following the post-game hoopla in Game 4 where the Indiana Pacers had knotted up their best-of-seven series with the mighty Miami Heat -- a 7-to-1 betting favorite in this set before things ever tipped off, remember! -- there was Smith claiming the Heat would mop up the floor with Indiana in Game 5.

You know the deal:

The Heat was gonna be angry, annoyed and more than a little put off by the Game 4 result which -- like it or not -- featured 33 free throws by Indiana players (27 attempted FTs by the Heat) and in the game's final couple of minutes everything that could go wrong for Miami did go wrong as LeBron James was whistled for a sixth and final foul on a bogus moving screen and Dwyane Wade was whistled for another funky foul call that found the two-time champion Wade chomping down hard on his black mouth guard.

The Heat's been made a solid 7.5-point betting favorite for this Game 5 clash -- remember that it was an 8.5-point fav in Game 1 and a 7.5-point favorite in Game 2 at home against these gritty/gutsy Pacers -- so maybe don't put all that much into the hefty Las Vegas price tag considering Miami didn't cover either of the first two games in this series in South Beach. Still, right now this Game 5 "smells" a lot like Game 3 when the Heat -- coming off a 97-93 home loss -- battered the Pacers to the tune of 114-96 this past Sunday night and that was extended "garbage time" from mid-second-quarter on, more or less.

Okay, here's the official chart version of the first four games of this Eastern Conference Finals series (note al home teams are in CAPS):

DATE WINNER SPREAD LOSER SCORE
5-22 MIAMI - 8.5 Indiana 103-102 (ot)
5-24 Indiana + 7.5 MIAMI 97-93
5-26 Miami - 2 INDIANA 114-96
5-28 INDIANA + 2.5 Miami 99-92


NBA EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS
#3 INDIANA at #1 MIAMI
-- Series tied 2-2

If truth be told, there were plenty of disturbing stat trends that worked against the Miami Heat in that seven-point road loss in Indiana two nights ago:

For starters, Miami committed only six turnovers and registered seven steals and so common sense -- from just checking out a stat sheet -- would have told you the Heat would have picked up some gimme points and not allowed many gimme points in return but dig a little bit deeper and you see that starters LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Mario Chalmers combined to miss some 33 field-goal attempts (10 misses from the floor apiece for James and Wade and eight missed FGs by Chalmers) and so that's how shooting 39 percent from the floor can come back and haunt you.

If the Heat would like to make life easier on themsleves here, than the James/Wade tandem must stay active both when they have the ball -- and when they don't -- as both proved to be great cutters in the two Miami wins and especially when James was surveying the situation and finding Wade with crisp, thread-the-needle passes that led to easy hoops. If James and Wade can score -- conservatively speaking -- 20 points on such half-court set plays here, than Erik Spoelstra's squad will be tough to beat.

But there's more -- of course:

The Heat bench that pretty much went MIA in the Game 4 loss -- that was 19 points on 19 shots from the field and nothing from Chris "The Birdman"Andersen who started off this series like an MVP candidate -- and so that juch change here. Amdersen must make some energy plays and score off tips, back-door passes and the like and dare we say ancient three-point shooter Ray Allen must get the motor revved up following his ugly 4-of-13 games that did include a real three-point falldown prayer at one point. Allen must find his spots deep in the corners and than stay there and drill at least a handful of triples here or this one
could be real tight down the home stretch.

One amusing part of this Game 5 set-up is the Heat have -- we think kiddingly -- requested that official Joey Crawford not work here (he won't) because Miami sure didn't care for his whistles in that last game and there's a growing belief that Crawford "has it in" for James, Wade and mates.

Hey, on a serious note here's two bits of strategy for Game 5 when it comes to the Pacers:

Both 7-foot-2 center Roy Hibbert (23 points and 12 rebounds including six offensive caroms) and ever-active forward David West (14 points and 12 rebounds in Game 4 including four offensive rebounds) must make this a crowded game in the paint and count on their might to overcome a Heat team that's dealing with some issues such as F Chris Bosh's tender/turned ankle and a gun-shy Udonis Haslem who picked up just two rebounds and one foul in 18 minutes of game action in Game 4 -- what gives, U?

Finally, the Pacers' backcourt still has problems delivering the ball to folks in their so-called comfort zone and PG George Hill (6 assists but 5 turnovers in Game 4) must steer clear of forcing the action and not reading the Miami defense. In Game 4 there were a couple of instances we noted where he didn't read his own team's pick-and-pop plays and ran himself straight into traffic. Gotta believe the savvy Heat will look to confuse and unnerve Hill at every turn and so keep a real close eye on the turnovers here. If Hill commits more than a handful of turnovers here, than the Pacers will surely be heading back to middle America down three games-to-two.


BASEBALL NEWS & NOTES

No question that this "Rivalry Week" in Major-League Baseball has been met with mixed reviews -- some folks don't care for back-to-back two-game home-and-home series and other people are happy to cut back on the rivalry games but it's safe to say that following this past Tuesday night both the New York Mets and the Los Angeles Dodgers felt a bit re-born after snagging home sweeps against the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Angels, respectively.

In fact, in the Mets' back-to-back 2-1 wins at Citi Field (where there were still plenty of "good seats" available) the National League East team not only became the first squad to hand Yankees closer Mariano Rivera a blown save without him collecting a single out but they actually came from behind both nights with 2B Davniel Murphy singling home the game-winning run in the series opener and starting Tuesday's bottom-of-the-ninth-inning rally with a two-bagger and than he scored on a David Wright hit. Murphy -- who has bounced around all over the place in the Mets' lineup this year including a brief stint last week at the leadoff spot -- may well be the next batting champion-in-waiting as he has the potential to bat in the .330s (with little power) and right now is showing a Mets fan base that he may have more heart and soul than anyone on the roster.

Meanwhile, out West the Dodgers -- pretty much left for dead by the local media following a swoon that dropped 'em to 20-28 -- bagged back-to-back home wins agaainst the Angels and Monday's win featured a comeback from a 6-1 deficiti. Still, the two-night Dodgers story in that home sweep was lefty Hyun-Jim Ryu who fired a two-hit, complete-game shutout in a 3-0 win. Ryu struck out seven batters and walked nobody while lowering his 2013 season ERA to 2.89 and afterwards Dodgers CF Matt Kemp declared that the star southpaw was "a superstar". Hey, takes one to know one.

Right now Ryu is one of a handful of new names that should be filling out this year's National League All-Star Game roster -- along with the Mets' Matt Harvey, Washington's Jordan Zimmermann, Arizona's Patrick Corbin and Cincinnati's Mike Leake. Now, if NL All-Star manager Bruce Bochy (San Francisco Giants) just lets these guys combine for the first eight innings and than have Cincinnati's Aroldis Champman close things out, it could feel a lot like 1964 -- the last time an All-Star Game was held in Flushing (and an NL win thanks to a game-winning home run by Philadelphia OF Johnny Callison -- now that's turning back the clock, eh?).

Finally, from the these stats-will-blow-your-mind department:

Three St. Louis Cardinals starting pitchers sport sub-.300 ERAs including RHP Shelby Miller (2.02 ERA(, RHP Adam Wainwright (2.48 ERA) and righty Lance Lynn (2.95 ERA while heading into last night';s home game against the Kansas City Royals). Maybe Bob Gibson's 1.12 ERA (see 1968 season) won't quite be threatened by this Redbirds trio but it's something to marvel at, wouldn't you say?

NOTE: Catch more NBA Eastern Conference action and MLB News & Noes too in the next edition of Jim Sez.

22
Aug

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