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Miami Aims to Give Pacers the Heat Treatment

A battle in the Eastern Conference is set to tip on Friday as the 17-22 Indiana Pacers face off against the 22-19 Miami Heat.

These teams are headed in different directions as the Pacers have been stuck in 10th place in the Eastern Conference standings and look to have taken a step back. Miami got off to a slow start but since it has turned things around. The Heat are in fourth place in the conference standings.

Precious Achiuwa of the Miami Heat dunks during the first half against the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center
Sarah Stier/Getty Images/AFP

A glance at the NBA odds for this game shows the Heat being 4½-point favorites at home, with the over/under set at 215½.

Indiana Pacers Preview

The best way to explain the Pacers this season is underwhelming. This team has suffered some big injuries to some key players and has never been able to really mesh.

Forward Domantas Sabonis has been a bright spot in Indiana as he earned his second All-Star appearance and took home some hardware in the skills competition. On the season, Sabonis is averaging 20.4 points, 11.2 rebounds, and 6.4 assists per game while shooting 53% from the field.

The Pacers are 2-8 over their last 10 games, averaging 110 points, 37.1 rebounds, and 25.7 assists per game, all on 47% shooting from the field. They are allowing opponents to score 115.4 points per game on 50% shooting.

Rebounding has been the problem for Indiana as it averages 41.5 per game. When the Pacers allow opponents to pull in more boards, they are 7-20. The Pacers are 10-12 against the Eastern Conference and have to be ready to go against a red-hot Heat team.

Miami Heat Preview

The Heat have turned things around, playing some of the best basketball in the league. Jimmy Butler finally got healthy, and thanks to that, this team finds itself looking like the group that was in the NBA Finals a season ago.

The Heat’s exceptional play of late can be attributed to their smothering defense. This team holds the third-best defensive rating and is allowing opponents to score the lowest number of points in the paint at 39.1, while allowing the league’s lowest shooting from the field at 44%.

Miami is 8-2 in its last 10 games. Butler has been the star, averaging 21.8 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 7.6 assists per game.

Off the bench, guard Goran Dragic is averaging 12.8 points and 4.3 assists per game over the last 13 games.

During their current hot streak, the Heat are averaging 104.4 points, 43.1 rebounds, and 25.2 assists per game while shooting 45% from the field. They have held opponents to only 98.7 points per game on 42% shooting.

Miami is 13-12 against the Eastern Conference. The Heat also hold a 13-4 mark when outrebounding opponents, which is an area that the Pacers really struggle in.

Analysis and Pick

The Pacers have had an up-and-down campaign and a sluggish start since the All-Star break. Closing games has been an issue, and over the past five games, the Pacers have been outscored in the fourth quarter by 54 points.

They have failed to hold opponents to fewer than 30 points in any fourth quarter since the start of March. Keeping the Heat off the glass and timely baskets against a defensive-heavy group are going to be crucial if the Pacers are hoping for a win on the road.

Despite the great defense Miami has, its biggest weakness is on the offensive end and scoring the ball. Miami has five players who are averaging in double figures, led by Butler, but overall, the team is in the bottom half of the league in offensive rating, ranking 25th.

The Heat are also 19th in field-goal percentage at 46% and 26th in 3-point percentage at 35%. This is going to be a grind-it-out game for both of these teams, but the Heat’s defense and ability to rebound and the Pacers’ lack of a closer in the fourth quarter spells all Miami in this one.

When making your NBA betting picks, go with the Heat to win and cover at home.

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