Heat @ Bucks January 17 Free Pick


I made the biggest play of my NBA season over the weekend on Miami in the last game I wrote up here at SBL. It was a precarious start, with the Heat’s offense struggling, but the it closed the first half well and then took over in the third quarter to coast to an 18-point win.

Since then, Milwaukee won at Washington and Miami lost at Chicago in Zach LaVine‘s return on Monday. Both teams got Tuesday off before their rematch three days after their first meeting of the season. And while tonight’s game is just an average play for me, I still think there’s some value with the Heat, at home or on the road.

Free Pick

In my last write-up I talked about the great disparity in depth between these two teams. Milwaukee is top-heavy with some great talent, but it really only has four players who are better than average, four guys who are better than Miami’s ninth guy.

The Heat has a strong sense of team now that it’s healthy. Eric Spolestra shuffled the lineup, as I expected, to matchup better with the Greek Freak, starting James Johnson and sending Kelly Olynyk to the bench. He ran that lineup back against Chicago and I expect him to do the same tonight.

Johnson did a good job on Giannis, but Bam Adebayo was even better off the bench. Miami’s rookie big man doesn’t bring a lot to the table on offense, but he is a fantastic defender and, most importantly, plays within himself. On a team full of guys who find their own little way to contribute, he fits right in.

Johnson and Adebayo did a good job containing Giannis and closing on his jump shot. When he did get to the rim, though, Hassan Whiteside was there. He blocked four shots early in the game, which made Milwaukee think twice about attacking the paint. That combination of strong one-on-one defense with Whiteside roaming around the rim was why the Bucks failed to crack 80.

Then there was Justise Winslow, who made his return from injury on Sunday and though he only played 13 minutes and didn’t shoot the ball particularly well, his playmaking ability was on display. Winslow played good defense, got four rebounds and had four assists as a de-facto point guard when he was on the floor. Spolestra upped his minutes to 21 on Monday in Chicago and Winslow did more of the same: getting a steal, six rebounds and another four assists.

Wayne Ellington has become one of the top-five three-point threats in the NBA this season and he was just 1-for-7 on Sunday in Milwaukee. That isn’t likely to happen again.

So while I loved the spot on Sunday, there is no longer anything special about the circumstance this time around. I still believe Miami to be the better side, though. The Heat has a balanced and deep array of talent with the personnel to combat Milwaukee’s strengths. It’s just one game so anything can happen, but over the course of 48 minutes Miami should wear down Milwaukee, just as it did on Sunday. This time around, we get points.

Free Pick: Miami +5

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