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James questionable for Pacers-Heat showdown
By: Zach Cohen - StatFox
Published: 12/18/2013  at  7:01:00 AM
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at MIAMI HEAT (18-6)

Tip-off: Wednesday, 7:05 p.m. ET
Line: Miami -3, Total: 189

The Pacers look to make yet another statement this season when they visit the Heat on Wednesday night, who could be missing LeBron James.

Miami is 14-3 SU (10-7 ATS) in its past 17 games, but in Monday's 117-94 rout of the Jazz, superstar SF LeBron James tweaked his ankle. James missed Wednesday's shoot-around, and will be a game-time decision for this showdown. Indiana is also playing well at 11-3 SU (9-5 ATS) in its past 14 games, which included a 90-84 victory over the Heat on Dec. 10. However, the Pacers are just 1-3 ATS in their past four contests, falling 101-96 at home on Monday to the 11-point underdog Pistons. This series has been tight over the past three seasons with Miami holding a 12-9 SU advantage and Indiana having the 11-10 ATS edge. However, the Heat are 8-2 SU (6-4 ATS) at home during this timeframe. Both teams have positive betting trends, as the Pacers are 6-1 ATS after an ATS loss this season, while Miami is 29-13 ATS (69%) when revenging a same-season loss to an opponent since the start of the 2011-12 season. The total has gone Over five times out of six games this season in which Indiana has played a game as a road underdog. SF Michael Beasley (hamstring) is questionable against the Pacers, which will make the Heat thin at the forward position if James is forced to sit.

Which Eastern Conference powerhouse will prevail on Wednesday night? For the answer, connect to The Platinum Sheet for all the Expert picks throughout the entire 2012-13 season. The five experts are at 58% ATS (30-22) on Best Bets in December. During this timeframe, StatFox Zach has a stellar 91% ATS mark (10-1) and is currently 58% ATS (21-15) on Best Bets for the season. StatFox Dave has an excellent 73% ATS (8-3) Best Bets record in December.

Indiana has the best record in the Eastern Conference thanks mostly to a defense allowing a league-low 90.0 PPG. The offense is scoring just 97.7 PPG (20th in NBA), and star SF Paul George (23.8 PPG, 5.8 RPG) has struggled as of late. George is averaging 14.3 PPG on 10-of-37 FG (27%) over the past three games, including a 4-of-11 shooting night in the Dec. 10 win over Miami. SG Lance Stephenson (12.9 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 5.0 APG) was the best player for the Pacers in Monday's loss to the Pistons with 23 points, seven rebounds and six assists. He will need to make life on Dwyane Wade difficult for the Pacers to have a chance. In last week's head-to-head meeting, Stephenson registered a game-high +13 rating, while Wade produced a game-worst rating of minus-18. C Roy Hibbert (12.9 PPG, 8.8 RPG) and PF David West (13.0 PPG, 7.1 RPG) combined for just 20 points and nine rebounds against the Pistons on Monday, but the duo combined for 41 points and 14 rebounds in the win over the Heat eight days ago. The two players are a big reason the Pacers average 44.0 RPG (10th in NBA). The Pacers will cause the Heat problems defensively with the way they pack the paint and play help defense. If LeBron James doesn’t play it will be nearly impossible for the Heat to score 90 points in the contest.

Miami has been stellar on both ends of the court this season, scoring 103.7 PPG (6th in NBA) and allowing only 96.0 PPG (6th in NBA). Before hurting himself on Monday, SF LeBron James (25.3 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 6.5 APG) was having one of his best games of the season with 30 points (13-of-17 FG), nine rebounds and nine assists in 34 minutes. Miami could really struggle against Indiana if it doesn’t rebound the ball well. They are averaging a league-worst 35.9 RPG, and rebounding is a strength of Indiana, which outrebounded Miami 34 to 27 in the Dec. 10 victory. PF Chris Bosh (14.6 PPG, 6.1 RPG) had just three boards in that loss, but has played better in his past two games with 21.0 PPG and 9.0 RPG. SG Dwyane Wade (19.2 PPG, 5.1 APG, 4.8 RPG) will also need to play his best basketball as the Heat rely on him to be their primary scoring option with LeBron James injured. Wade scored 17 points on 6-of-14 shooting in last week's meeting, but in two games since is averaging 25.5 PPG on 18-of-29 shooting (62%). He'll need to overcome a difficult matchup with Lance Stephenson for the Heat to emerge victorious in this matchup.

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