The Indiana Pacers mapped out a plan to topple their great rivals the Miami Heat at the start of the season and, until recently, were finding a way to follow each step as closely as possible.
First they needed the number one seed in the East to gain home advantage in the playoff. They achieved it at the Heat’s expense, despite suffering some mid-season turbulence.
Next on the agenda was negotiating a safe path through the playoffs in order to meet the Heat in the Eastern Finals for the second consecutive year, and third at any stage of the post season.
They checked that off, albeit in a more convoluted manner than the Heat, as they dropped five games over the course of the first two series, to the Heat’s one.
Once finally faced with their great foe they started well too, taking Game 1 against LeBron James and co 107-96.
Things have gone terribly awry ever since.
A stuttered finish at home in Game 2 saw the series draw level, before a 15-point lead was handed back to the defending champions in Game 3. Then, before Game 4, Lance Stephenson’s attempts at verbally throwing James out of sync backfired as the former MVP ran the show in a 102-90 win.
Now Indiana must do what only eight teams in NBA history have managed previously to stay alive; come back from 3-1 down. No team since 1981 have managed it at this stage of the playoffs.
The Pacers’ size was meant to be the advantage Frank Vogel’s men had over the South Beach franchise but if 7ft 2in centre Roy Hibbert goes scoreless again, like he did last time out, then that’s rendered meaningless.
The Heat are 4/5 favourites to win Game 5 and progress to the NBA Finals, where they are 10/11 to secure a third straight Championship.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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