Hot Indiana Pacers now chasing No. 6 Playoff Seed

indiana-pacers-chasing-playoffsThe Indiana Pacers continued their rapid climb up the Eastern Conference standings after beating the Milwaukee Bucks by a score of 109-103 in overtime. And this was a huge win for the Pacers because they’re currently chasing Milwaukee for the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference.

It certainty wasn’t an easy victory, though, given that this contest included 60 fouls, 35 turnovers and an overtime period. Furthermore, Indiana’s six-game streak of holding opponents to under 90 points was finally snapped. Nevertheless, the Pacers (30-34) will definitely take the victory, which gives them a seven-game winning streak and moves them to within three and a half games back of Milwaukee (34-31).

“That’s what most teams want, you don’t want to be playing your best basketball in the beginning,” said Solomon Hill when discussing how Indiana was 15 games under .500 a month ago. “You want to be playing your best basketball at the end.”

So what’s the driving force behind the Pacers’ incredible turnaround? Well, the most-obvious factor is the balance that Indiana has, with five players averaging double figures in points and a bench that’s deeper than the ocean. Given as well as everybody’s playing on this team from top to bottom, Indiana certainly won’t run out of players down the stretch.

indiana-pacers-chasing-playoffs-1But one factor that can’t be seen by the stats alone is how Indiana has exhibited a never-quit attitude all season long – even when they were mired in 12th place in the East with a 15-30 record.

“I still think morale was high even when we were losing,” said point guard Donald Sloan. “Guys’ heads were still up and maintaining and getting through it. It’s just a good group. I don’t think if you had different combinations or different guys in here it would be the same.”

Another aspect to consider here is how scrappy Indiana has been on the defensive end of the floor. The team almost changed to a zone midway through the season, amid struggles, but head coach Frank Vogel decided to stick with what the Pacers do best. And power forward David West is certainly a fan of this decision as he said:

“At times we were trying to maybe change sort of our defensive schemes that have worked for us over the last two to three years. Ultimately, we said, ‘Nah, we’re just going to stick with what we do. We got better at that and our defense started to pick up which has helped us win games. The message is always the same: Just stay steady, believe in one another and remain confident and see what happens.”

Riding the high of a seven-game win streak, it won’t be hard for Indiana to remain confident and stay steady moving forward. They have 18 games left in the regular season to catch Milwaukee, which would currently put them in a first-round matchup with the injury-riddled Chicago Bulls. However, if they can’t catch the Bucks, Indiana would have a less-favorable matchup with the Cleveland Cavaliers, a team that’s been red-hot over the past 25 games.

In any case, just the fact that the Pacers have a strong shot at making the postseason seems like a miracle when considering their horrid start. So if you’re into Indiana Pacers betting, certainly keep their stellar play in mind when placing your wagers.

Where does Paul George Injury leave Indiana Pacers’ 2015 Season

paul-george-injury-team-usaNBA All-Star Paul George officially suffered one of the most gruesome sports injuries of all-time this week (see video at bottom). During a Team USA intrasquad scrimmage at UNLV’s Thomas and Mack Center, George went up to contest a layup by James Harden. During the jump, he stretched out his right leg, which bent perpendicular to his body upon landing on the basket stanchion’s base.

The cringe-worthy injury fractured both George’s tibula and fibula, which will likely leave him out for the entire 2014-15 NBA season. So if you already made a 2014 futures bet on the Indiana Pacers, we feel bad for you, although not as badly as for George.

The 24-year-old was vying for a spot on Team USA as they train for the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Rio de Janeiro. He was basically a lock to make the team, and many expected him to start alongside other stars like Kevin Durant and Harden. Now he’ll not only miss the FIBA World Cup, but also be sidelined until next spring or summer.

If there’s one positive to come out of all this, it’s that George remains upbeat, despite his horrific injury. He tweeted, “Thanks everybody for the love and support. I’ll be ok and be back better than ever!!! Love y’all!!” Pacers Team President Larry Bird also tried to put a positive spin on things, while avoiding any predictions on a return. Here’s a look at Bird’s statement:

paul-george-pacersOur first thoughts are with Paul and his family. It is way too early to speculate on his return as the No. 1 priority for everyone will be his recovery. Our initial discussions with our doctors and the doctors in Las Vegas have us very optimistic. We are hopeful at some point next week Paul will return to Indianapolis to continue his recovery.

There is no question about the impact on our team but our goal is to be as strong-willed and determined as Paul will be in coming back.  Our franchise has had setbacks in its history but has demonstrated the abilities to recover. Paul will provide the example of that off the court and it is up to the rest of us to provide that example on the court. Any discussion regarding the future of our team would be inappropriate at this time. Our focus is solely on Paul and doing whatever we can to help.

Now the question is where this leaves Indiana as they enter the 2014-15 NBA season. This was a squad that raced out to first place in the Eastern Conference over the first half of the year. However, they struggled over much of the second half, barely hanging on to the East’s number one seed with a 56-26 record.

The Pacers had numerous troubles in the first round against an inferior Atlanta Hawks team that used a barrage of three-pointers to take a 3-2 series lead. But Atlanta went cold over the last two games, which helped Indiana move on. They played a lot better in a physical semifinals matchup with the Washington Wizards, eventually winning this series 4-2.

Then came the ballyhooed rematch against the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals. Indiana grabbed a 107-96 victory in Game 1, before losing their last four out of five contests against Miami, including an embarrassing 117-92 loss in Game 6.

After losing Lance Stephenson to Charlotte via free agency this summer, the Pacers were already facing an uphill battle. Now they lose their beat all-around player in George, who averaged 21.7 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 3.5 APG and 1.9 SPG last season. Furthermore, they’ll miss the 13.8 PPG, 7.2 RPG and 4.6 APG that Stephenson contributed in 2013. So where does this leave Indiana moving forward?

Pacers Core and New Additions

roy-hibbertThe cupboard isn’t bare, however, it is far from stocked. They return David West (14 PPG, 6.8 RPG), Roy Hibbert (10.8 PPG, 2.25 BPG) and George Hill (10.3 PPG, 3.7 RPG). These three figure to make up the core of Indiana’s team this season.

Indiana added former Cleveland Cavaliers swingman C.J. Miles this offseason. Miles only played 19.3 minutes a game while coming off the bench for Cleveland. However, he definitely made those minutes count, averaging 9.9 PPG and shooting 39.3% from beyond the arc. He may have a far bigger role with Indiana due to George’s injury.

Damjan Rudez is another interesting addition to the Pacers’ roster. The 6’10” Yugoslavian is mainly an outsider shooter in the same mold of Hedo Turkoglu. Rudez is a weird fit for coach Frank Vogel’s system because he’s not a great defender. But the small forward was a really good player overseas, and he could help make up for George’s missing offense.

rodney-stuckey-indiana-pacersAs many NBA fans are aware of, the Pacers quickly added Rodney Stuckey after losing Stephenson in mid July. Stuckey was once looked at as a future building block for the Detroit Pistons. Unfortunately, he’s never been able to develop a consistent three-point shot, hitting just 28.3% of his shots from beyond the arc. But what Stuckey can do is get to the rim and score, or at least draw a foul. He scored 13.9 PPG last season for Detroit and hit 83.6% of his free throws. So this production will be crucial as he likely steps into a starting shooting guard role for Indiana in 2014.

How does Indiana finish without George?

It’s not a given that Paul George will miss the entire NBA season. And as Bird alluded to, it’s difficult to put a timetable on a return until more is known following surgery. So George could return in time for the playoffs and give Indiana a huge boost. However, if you’re planning on doing some Indiana Pacers betting this season, keep in mind that they’re definitely no postseason lock.

This is a team of good pieces that were centered around George. Now that the 6’8″ swingman is missing, somebody will have to step up just to make Indiana a legitimate playoff team. West is 33, Hibbert can’t stay consistent for long stretches and Hill’s numbers regressed from last year.

Plus there’s the loss of Stephenson, who, beyond his weird playoff antics, was arguably the Pacers second best player. Neither Lance nor George can really be replaced heading into the season. However, with Vogel as coach and some players who know how to win, grabbing the sixth or seventh seed in the Eastern Conference isn’t totally out of the question. Where they go from here largely depends on if George can make it back before the spring.

Indiana gets past Atlanta – Now What?

indiana-paul-georgeDown 3-2 in their first-round series, Indiana stormed back to win their final two games against the Atlanta Hawks and avoid an upset of catastrophic proportions.

Looking at the statistics, you could say that the Hawks beat themselves more than the Pacers did anything to stop them. Relying on a heavy long-range attack to beat the East’s top seed, this strategy worked well for Atlanta in the first five games. However, it also became their undoing as they shot just 20-of-79 from the three-point line (25.3%) over the final two games.

Indiana’s 92-80 Game 7 victory was especially crazy since the Hawks hoisted a playoff record-breaking 44 three-pointers – hitting just 11 of those attempts. Basically, the Pacers dodged a bullet when a team that won only 38 regular season games shot terribly from the field over a two-game stretch.

So what did coach Frank Vogel have to say in the aftermath of this narrow series win? “It’s not easy,” he said, “guarding a team that takes 44 three’s, especially when 18 of those three’s came from their big guys.” Okay, fair enough, the Hawks did spread Indiana out and seek to minimize the Pacers’ inside defensive presence. But again, this was a team that finished six games under .500. So the question becomes, can we expect Indiana to get past the more talented and rising Washington Wizards in the conference semifinals?

The answer to this question will heavily depend on Roy Hibbert, who just hasn’t been himself over the past two months. He especially looked out of place against Atlanta’s jump-shooting barrage. However, he also earned some redemption in Game 7 by scoring 13 points, grabbing seven rebounds and blocking five shots.

indiana-roy-hibbertEverything points to Hibbert having a better overall series against Washington, which sports more traditional frontcourt size and offensive sets. We highly doubt that the Wizards will be attempting 40-plus three’s in the next round, so Hibbert should be a strong defensive presence. But then again, it’s been hard to predict when the 7’2″ big man will show up based on the latter half of the season. So we won’t truly know Hibbert’s impact until the Washington series is over with.

Team chemistry will be another issue. This is especially the case since Lance Stephenson and Evan Turner got into a fistfight before Game 1 of the Hawks series. Luckily, there was no word on any more incidents that were this dramatic. But it wasn’t long ago when Hibbert was publicly questioning the team’s offensive philosophy and complaining about not getting the ball enough. Championship teams don’t whine about who gets the ball, so this can’t resurface against the Wizards, and definitely not against Miami, should these two teams meet in the conference finals.

David West and Stephenson will also be question marks going into the Washington series. The latter is especially iffy from game to game and sometimes takes terrible shots. But the 6’5″ Stephenson did show up big on the glass in Game 7, grabbing 14 rebounds, including five on the offensive end. As for West, he brings a nice veteran presence to Indiana’s lineup, but he was off and on against Atlanta. Thankfully for the Pacers, he finished on a high note, scoring 13 points and blocking an incredible six shots.

About the lone guy that Indiana doesn’t need to worry about is Paul George. The star swingman put up 30 points and 11 rebounds in the winning Game 7 effort. “I got a chance to go to my mid-range,” George said after the victory. “It opened the game up. I felt confident coming off of screens and shooting the ball tonight.” For the entire series, he averaged 23.8 points and 10.7 rebounds, which are star numbers for sure.

This team boasts a championship-caliber roster. But they need to overcome inconsistent play and locker room problems if they are to reach their full potential.

Are the Pacers headed for a First-Round Loss?

atlanta-indiana-game-2One of the big NBA storylines over the past few weeks has been the continued struggles of the Indiana Pacers. After rushing out to a sizable lead in the Eastern Conference, Indiana dropped behind Miami at one point, before finally rallying to re-take the number-one seed.

However, even with the way that Indiana limped down the stretch, not many people seriously expected the Atlanta Hawks to challenge them in the first round. This is, after all, the same Hawks team that lost their star center, Al Horford, to a torn pectoral muscle early in the season, and barely held off the disastrous Knicks for the East’s eighth seed.

But you can throw out everything that’s happened up to this point because a 38-win Atlanta squad holds a 1-0 lead in this series. So the question now becomes, are the Pacers headed for a downfall of epic proportions in the first round?

The obvious takeaway from Game 1 is that the Hawks’ big players, Jeff Teague and Paul Millsap, really showed up when it counted. Teague scored 28 points and dished out five assists while Millsap provided 25 points and eight rebounds. Aside from their stars playing well, the Hawks shot pretty well from the outside, hitting 11 out of a franchise-record 30 three-point attempts (36.7%). And this is exactly where Atlanta’s advantage lies in the series – outside shooting.

Indiana knew well in advance that their opponent is a perimeter-oriented team. David West said as much before Game 1 when he called the Hawks a “jump shooting team.” But the Pacers didn’t do a great job of forcing Atlanta out of their comfort zone. This isn’t a team that’s going to take many shots over Roy Hibbert and West in the paint. They’re going to put the ball in Teague’s hands in isolation sets and let him create opportunities with his quickness.

atlanta-indiana-game-1Closing out on Atlanta’s shooters wasn’t Indiana’s only problem. Their go-to swingman, Paul George, scored 24 points, but hit just 6-of-18 shots. West wasn’t much better as he made 4-of-10 attempts in a quiet, 8-point effort. Hibbert’s 4-of-9 shooting didn’t look so bad, until you consider that he made two garbage-time layups near the end. Then there was Louis Scola, who was the opposite of firepower off the bench with his 0-for-6 shooting effort. Coupled with the loss, it’s no wonder why Scola was later seen staring at the locker room floor.

Finally, there was the third quarter, where Atlanta went on a game-defining 14-0 run that put them ahead by a score of 74-58. From here, it was all about protecting their lead for Atlanta, which they did fairly well en route to a 101-93 victory.

Indiana is of course trying to remain optimistic about their outlook. “It’s frustrating. It’s frustrating, but it’s a long series,” George said following the disappointing loss. “It’s just one game and that’s the way we have to look at it.”

However, this one game was on the home floor of the NBA’s best home team. Now they face the prospect of having to win four out of six games, with three of these contests being in Atlanta. It’s not an impossible task for a talented team that looked so good to open the season. But the Pacers have to find a way to keep the Hawks from continually spreading the floor and getting open looks from beyond the arc.

Amazingly, Greg Oden is playing Meaningful NBA Minutes Again

greg-oden-returnsIt’s safe to say that Greg Oden’s professional basketball career hasn’t gotten off to a very good start. In fact, some people already consider Oden to be a major draft bust since injuries have prevented him from seeing much of the court.

After averaging 15.7 PPG, 9.6 RPG and 3.3 BPG in his lone season at Ohio State, the 7-footer was drafted number one overall by the Portland Trailblazers. Unfortunately, he didn’t play a single game in his first year after undergoing microfracture surgery before the preseason even started.

Oden finally got to debut as a rookie in the 2008-2009 season. He still missed 21 games and played through injuries, but managed to post numbers of 8.9 PPG, 7.0 RPG and 1.1 BPG. Oden started out the 2009-10  season with even better numbers, averaging 11.1 PPG, 8.5 RPG and 2.3 BPG. But his career was derailed again when he was carried off the court on a stretcher. He suffered a season-ending injury and underwent surgery for a fractured left patella.

Following more setbacks, Oden missed two more seasons for the Trailblazers, and the team officially cut ties with him in 2012 so they could create more roster space. Given the fact that he played just 82 games for them over a six-year span, the Trailblazers will always consider him a bust. But that doesn’t mean the former number one overall pick has given up…

greg-oden-returns-1He recently returned to the court for the Miami Heat. He signed a one-year minimum contract worth $884,293 in an attempt to revive his career. Seeing as how the Heat don’t exactly need a lot of help at center with Chris Bosh starting and Chris Anderson backing him up, they decided to bring Oden along slowly. And now, it appears as if he’s finally in shape and over previous injuries.

In four games so far, he’s averaging 3.5 PPG, 2.0 RPG and 0.5 BPG. Oden fills an important role for the Heat because of his size (7’0″, 270 pounds), and he’s a true center who could match up well with Indiana’s Roy Hibbert. Contrast this to Bosh and Anderson, who are also centers, but not exactly low-post bruisers.

We can only count on Oden’s role expanding as he gets better and more used to real game minutes. “I still got a ways to go,” he said. “I’m still not as quick as I want to be out there. There are still things I can get better at.”

At 25 years old and with multiple injuries throughout his career, Greg Oden may never live up to the demands of a number-one draft pick. However, he’s getting meaningful minutes once again, and with a two-time defending NBA champion nonetheless. It’ll be quite interesting to see if he can help the Heat win their third title in a row this season.

Miami currently boasts the Eastern Conference’s second best record (31-12), trailing Indiana and their league-leading 31-8 mark. The Pacers took them to seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals last year. And the Pacers are looking even better thanks to Paul George, Hibbert and the emergence of second-round pick Lance Stephenson. If the Heat are to make the NBA Finals again, the’ll need Oden to help neutralize Hibbert’s impact since there’s hardly anybody in the league who can match up with the 7’2″ center.

Pacers-Heat Game 7 Line at -7, Big Prop Bets being offered

miami-heat-indiana-pacers-1Few experts predicted this: the Indiana Pacers have pushed the heavily-favored Miami Heat to a deciding Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Finals. This game, which starts at 7:30pm EST tonight (June 3rd), will decide who goes on to face the San Antonio Spurs in the 2013 NBA Finals.

Assuming you’re looking to get some action on this huge matchup, GTBets.eu has the point spread at -7. You can look at the complete line below:

Indiana Pacers  (-110)  Over 180 (-110)
Miami Heat  -7  (-110)  Under 180 (-110)

As you can see, the Heat are being spotted 7 points because they’re the home team and considered more talented. If you bet on Miami to cover the 7 point spread and they do so, you’d win $100 for every $110 wagered. Likewise, if the Pacers lose by less than 7 points, a wager on them would yield $100 profit for every $110 bet.

miami-heat-indiana-pacers-2You can also see that the totals bet offers a fairly low score of over/under 180. The Indiana Pacers employ a gritty, defensive style, which has kept the Miami Heat from shining on the offensive end of the floor. With such a big game tonight, don’t expect anything less from Indiana as they look to steal a game on the road. But also don’t forget that home teams have won nearly 80% of the 112 Game 7’s in NBA history.

Moneyline, Halftime, 1st Quarter Bets

The GTBets.eu moneyline has the Heat as huge favorites since they’ll be playing in front of their home crowd. Here’s a look at the Eastern Conference Game 7 moneyline:

Indiana Pacers  (+280)
Miami Heat  (-350)

If you have a strong feeling that the Pacers will win, now is the perfect time to make your bet. A winning moneyline wager on Indiana would yield $180 in profit ($280 total) for every $100 wagered. As for the Heat, you’d be risking $250 to earn $100 in profit ($350 total). Below you can check out the halftime and first quarter wagers as well.

Halftime Line

1st Half Indiana   (-110)  Over 88.5  (-110)
1st Half Miami  -4 (-110)  Under 88.5 (-110)

1st Quarter Line

1st Quarter Indiana   (-110)  Over 44.5  (-110)
1st Quarter Miami  -2 (-110)  Under 44.5 (-110)

Prop Bets

As with any big game, you can expect a full slate of prop bets at GTBets for this Eastern Conference Game 7 matchup. There are 22 prop bets to be exact, and you can see a few of them below:

First Team to Score First Points of the Game
Indiana  (-110)
Miami  (-120)

First Team to Score 10 PTS
Indiana  (100)
Miami  (-130)

Total 3PT shots made
Over 13.5  (-115)
Under 13.5  (-115)

Points Scored by Paul George (Must Play)
Over 19.5  (-125)
Under 19.5  (-105)

Points Scored by David West (Must Play)
Over 16.5  (-140)
Under 16.5  (-110)

Points Scored by Roy Hibbert (Must Play)
Over 20.5  (-125)
Under 20.5  (-105)

Points Scored by LeBron James (Must Play)
Over 29.5  (-120)
Under 29.5  (-110)

Assists by LeBron James (Must Play)
Over 6.5  (-135)
Under 6.5  (+105)

Points Scored by Chris Bosh (Must Play)
Over 12.5  (100)
Under 12.5  (-130)

Points Scored by Dwayne Wade (Must Play)
Over 16.5  (+110)
Under 16.5  (-140)