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NBA Pacers at Heat Preview

January 18, 2007

NBA Basketball - Indiana Pacers at Miami Heat (-9, 192) 9:30 PM EST

While it might be a case of garbage in and garbage out, the Indiana Pacers have set a new course and direction with its remaining players and newest additions. Yesterday's humongous trade shows once against how combustible the NBA is without the right mix of players. Given how Miami has played this season even with the injuries, it's hard to come up with two more discombobulated teams to play each other on this given day.

Indiana has gone with the idea of Midwestern values to remake the franchise. The departed players were often selfish and cared more about minutes and shots then victories. The group has a plethora of good shooters who work hard and whose defensive skills are non-existent.

Troy Murphy has a good mid-range shooting game, primarily as a stand still shooter. He can screen and pop with very good effectiveness. Complete defensive liability who lacks quickness and lateral foot speed. Best hope is he outscores his man on the floor.

Mike Dunleavy Jr. had become the most vilified player to wear Golden State uniform since Joe Barry Carroll. His casual demeanor overshadowed quality offensive skills that might work better in Rick Carlisle's offense. Because of lack of defensive skills, if he played baseball, Dunleavy would be a DH.

Ike Diogu never received the proper coaching in college and his game is far from complete. Diogu has nice quick moves inside, but as 6'8 is undersized without a more complete repertoire of offense. As far as being a true basketball player, has little comprehension of passing the ball and can be an automated turnover machine for lack of instinct in protecting the ball.  Keith McLeod is a 3-point shooter and little else.

Miami arrives back in South Beach brimming with confidence after 4-2 West swing in which they only had one bad game in Phoenix (who doesn't these days). Dwyane Wade's return to the line-up on a consistent basis has earmarked the Heat for even keeled play. Since his return, Wade is averaging 30.2 points a game and 8.6 assists, and he has shot better then 15 free throws per game in that stretch.

Optimism is bubbling over, with Shaq's possible return some time this weekend. O'Neal practiced last week for the first time since sustaining a left knee injury and participated in a full-contact practice yesterday. "He did full contact, full workout, up and down, did everything everybody did," interim coach Ron Rothstein said. "This is the first time, full-team, five-on-five, up-and-down. It went good. He's got a ways to go yet, but it was encouraging."

A late release of the opening line for this TNT Thursday night opener finds Miami a 9-point favorite at sportsbook.com.

Indiana has put the rest of the roster on notice they are not afraid to remake this team. The level of play needs to be improved or else. The Pacers will be an underdog of 3-7 points depending on the availability of what new acquisitions make it to Miami. Indiana has had great success in the Eastern Conference with 15-10 and 16-9 ATS record. The Pacers are at their most dangerous with two days between games, posting 6-1 SU and ATS record.

Miami has the chance to get on a serious roll. Twelve of the next 13 games will be against Eastern Conference teams, with only Pacers, Chicago and Cleveland having winning records at present. The Heat have to turn up the energy, since they are only 6-10 and 7-8-1 ATS vs. fellow conference foes. Concerning tonight's tilt, Miami is 8-2 ATS after allowing 100 or more points in last game.

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