When the NBA playoffs began, most fans and experts agreed that Miami was the best team. Nobody changed their mind after the Heat swept Milwaukee winning four games by an average margin of nearly 15 points a contest. There may have been a smidgen of doubt when Chicago won game one of the Eastern Semifinals, but the Heat rolled off four straight wins by an average of more than 18 points a game. The Eastern Finals against Indiana reaches game seven tonight. Some fans are questioning Miami. Las Vegas is not.
Not only are the Heat nearly a four-to-one favorite to eliminate Indiana, they are a three-to-two choice to win the NBA Finals. In other words, Miami, who needs to win a do or die game against the Pacers, and beat the Spurs in a best of seven, are overwhelming favorites to do just that. San Antonio, who does not face the pressure of a game seven having already secured their spot in the Finals, is close to a two-to-one underdog to win the championship. Indiana, in the same boat as Miami, one win away from the Finals, is an eight-to-one choice to bring home the title.
Why are the Heat such a big favorite? Simple, we've seen this before. Last year after knocking off the Knicks in five games, and Pacers in six, Miami had to win game six in Boston, and game seven at home against the Celtics to advance to the NBA Finals. Back-to-back easy victories set the scene for the Finals against Oklahoma City. After losing game one, Miami took four straight games to win the title.
Miami has done enough to triumph in every “must win” game they have played the last two years. Last season needing to avoid a three to one hole in the Indiana series they pulled out game four 101-93 and game five 115-83. Trailing Boston three games to two they won game six 98-79 and game seven 101-88. Down one game to none in the Finals they won at OKC 100-96 in game two. This year they didn't want to fall behind Chicago two games to none so they won the second game 115-78. When needing to avoid falling behind in their current series they beat the Pacers 114-96 in game three and 90-79 in game five. In the eight pressure packed games mentioned Lebron James has tallied more than 30 points a game. They are 8-0 with an average margin of victory of 17.8 points.
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The last time the Pacers won a game seven on the road was 2005 in the first round against Boston. Reggie Miller didn't have his best game that night but Stephen Jackson tallied a game high 24 points. Boston starters Raef LaFrentz, Delonte West, and Gary Payton combined for 11 points on five of 19 shooting. That trio isn't starting for Miami tonight.