NBA Odds and Picks: Miami Heat at Indiana Pacers

Goran Dragic is shooting 44 percent from three-point range over his past five games.
Goran Dragic is shooting 44 percent from three-point range over his past five games.

Miami Heat at Indiana Pacers
Time: 6 PM CT (ESPN)
Spread: IND -5
Total: 197.5

Odds c/o Pincle

The Miami Heat seemed to be making quick ground to become the best team in the East after knocking off the Oklahoma City Thunder and Cleveland Cavaliers to improve to 12-6 on the year, but since the Heat have fallen to the struggling Washington Wizards and Charlotte Hornets.

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Miami will travel to take on a tough Indiana Pacers team on ESPN tonight. NBA oddsmakers favor the 12-8 Indiana Pacers by 5 points. The Pacers are also riding a three-game losing streak so tonight’s contest could get one of these clubs back on the right track.

The Pacers have restructured their offense around Paul George as a power forward. And he is having his best season as a pro, averaging 28 points and eight boards per game, while posting a PER of 26.5. C.J. Miles has increased his production and is posting a career-high 16.1 points per game.

The Pacers attempt 24.4 three point shots per game and are shooting over 40 percent from behind the arc as a team. George is good for over three a game, as is Miles. Point guard George Hill has been a little inconsistent but is also hitting two threes a game and is No. 3 on the Pacers in scoring. Realistically, this is a team that can make some major waves in the postseason.

George is really coming into his own as an NBA forward and likely feels a least a little foolish for kicking at the goad when GM Larry Bird suggested he play the 4-spot. He scored 48 points on 15 of 27 shooting while hitting eight threes on Dec 5 against the Utah Jazz and he had 33 points, six assists, eight rebounds and three steals in the Pacers’ loss to the undefeated Golden State Warriors on Dec 8, last game.

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Over George’s last 10 games he is averaging 31.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and four assists per game while playing 36.6 minutes. To be anything less than a starter in the All-Star game would be a travesty, and it seems the discord that existed between he and former Pacer Roy Hibbert has helped George step his game up to another level. The Pacers were not the most functional unit personalty-wise prior to this season, but the team chemistry is notably better in 2015.

The Heat are a very strong defensive club, which has allowed the team to win 60 percent of its games despite averaging just 96 per game on the offensive end. Dwyane Wade his still productive and leads the team in scoring at 18.6 points per game. But it really has been the improvement in defense led by league-leading shot blocker Hassan Whiteside that has other clubs in the East hoping not to draw Miami in the postseason.

The Heat may be far better composed for postseason success, and that should worry even the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Goran Dragic is having a poor season by his standards, but should be come around the Heat will be even more dangerous. Dragic signed a max-deal over the offseason but he is averaging just 11 points per game and attempting just 9.9 field goals per game. He is also only knocking down 32.1 percent of his threes, which is showing signs of coming around.

Over his past five games he has averaged 13 points and 5.8 assists per game while shooting a much more Dragic-like 44.4 percent from behind the arc. He struggled against he Hornets but prior to that loss he had three straight games in which he hit 20 of 33 from the floor. Dragic is the key to improving Miami’s offense, and the defense is good enough that it will keep the Heat near the top of the Eastern Conference standings either way.

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