Heat at Blazers – NBA Pick for March 12th
Monday brings us an unusually small 4-game NBA slate, so finding a suitable game to pick was a bit challenging. The implied total of 211 points in Thunder-Kings is the highest on the night, just to give you an idea as to how ugly this group of games is.
Still, there’s some betting value to be had. Heat-Blazers starts a full 2.5 hours later than any other game tonight, and it’s a game with plenty of playoff implications on both sides. The Heat enter this one at 36-31, which is a half-game better than the Bucks for the No. 7 spot out East. Miami is a good 5.5 games ahead of the 9th-place Pistons, so at this point, their playoff berth looks all but assured.
As for the Blazers, they come into tonight’s game with a record of 40-26, which is third in the West. They’re now 2 ahead of the Pelicans and Timberwolves, though the conference is incredibly jam-packed. A No. 3 seed is usually a playoff lock at this point in the season, but Portland is only 3.5 games ahead of the Nuggets and Jazz for 9th. 2 teams currently in the playoff picture may be on the outside looking in in just a few days.
So, Portland has to keep winning. The Trail Blazers are currently riding a 9-game winning streak, which is the longest in the league. They’ve picked up some impressive victories in that span. Portland has beaten the Warriors (twice) as well as playoff hopefuls in the Thunder, Jazz and Timberwolves.
The MVP award is James Harden’s to lose at this point, but Damian Lillard has to be at least entering the conversation. During the streak, Lillard has averaged 32.6 points, 6 assists and 4.1 rebounds on blistering 42% shooting from three-point range. He’s made a habit of hitting huge shots in clutch situations, and he almost single-handedly disposed of Golden State last time out.
The Blazers have slowed the pace and played a more defense-oriented style this season, but they’ve been involved in a few shootouts of late. Portland hasn’t been held under 100 points since over a month ago, and they’ve put at least 108 points on the board in 6 consecutive outings.
This will be the second and final meeting of the season between these teams. The Blazers came out on top of a 102-95 decision in Miami back in mid-December. It was Lillard (who else?) that led a massive Portland comeback. Lillard scored 7 points in the last 3 minutes of the game and helped his team erase a 16-point deficit to come away with the victory.
Miami’s dealing with some injuries tonight. Hassan Whiteside and Dwyane Wade have both already been listed as out. Whiteside missed Miami’s dismantling of the Wizards last time out thanks to a hip injury, while Wade left after just 15 minutes after injuring his hamstring.
Bam Adebayo got the start in Whiteside’s stead, though he logged just 18 minutes. The real benefactor of the injury was Kelly Olynyk, who scored 13 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in 22 minutes of work off the bench. James Johnson led Miami with 20 points, while Wayne Ellington chimed in with 17 off the bench.
The argument can be made that Miami is a better team without Whiteside, but he’s played quite well during the team’s recent surge. They’ll miss him tonight. While Adebayo has proven to be a very solid rookie, he doesn’t yet have the size or strength to battle with someone like Jusuf Nurkic on the block. That’s a matchup the Bosnian Beast could exploit to his advantage.
I like Portland to cover here. They’re playing their best basketball of the season, while Miami just had to make the long cross-country trip to Portland. Considering the Heat are playing short-handed tonight, I think Portland should be able to cover the 7.5-point spread here.
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