With college hoops on ice again until November, I’m back on the NBA here this month. I’ll start to mix in some bases, too before the dog days begin.
It was a tough end to what was a pretty good college basketball season. I was steaming Villanova the whole way until the Final Four when I got cute and took KU with the points and the over in the National Championship Game.
Before March, I was successfully backing Miami in the Association a lot, even though the Heat wasn’t winning much.
Miami has played more close games than any other team in the NBA this season. Back in February, it was in the midst of a terrible streak of one-possession losses, most of which it covered with the points.
It clinched a playoff spot last night, though. And now it’s dancing with Milwaukee and Washington to see who ends up sixth, seventh and eighth in the East. After winning in Miami, late, last night, the Heat is a sizable favorite in Atlanta on the second night of the two teams’ back-to-back.
I’ve been following Miami just a bit closer than any other team in the NBA this season because I’ve had a future on it to win the division from back in January. It was just before John Wall went down and then Miami’s terrible losing began.
Since I made that play, Miami has lost to Brooklyn twice, Sacramento twice and Orlando, plus all of the close games to better teams. It’s won some close ones, too, but not nearly as many as it’s lost.
Even still, the Heat is tied with Washington and owns the tiebreaker with four games to go. The tiebreaker is one reason why tonight’s game is still important to Miami, even after clinching a playoff spot last night. A win would guarantee Miami a better record than Washington against the Southeast Division, which would give it the tiebreaker over the Wizards and the Bucks, if there were to be a three-way tie.
Of course, it’s not totally clear who the bottom three seeds will play in the first round of the playoffs. Toronto has a big game against Boston tonight, which would just about wrap up the 1-seed. Even if the Raptors lose, they will still be favorites to earn the top spot.
If Toronto is there, Boston will be #2. Cleveland and Philly are the two hottest teams in the conference and they are basically in a dead heat. Cleveland has one more win than the Sixers but has to play in Philly later this week, on the second night of a back-to-back, in a game FiveThirtyEight gives it about a 25 percent chance of winning. That race is strictly for the 3-seed; the loser will be the 4; and Indiana is the only team that feels completely locked in at #5.
What does this all mean for tonight’s game and the rest of the schedule for the teams jockeying for positioning at the bottom? I don’t know. I don’t think they do either.
Miami probably does want this game for the tiebreak and because it didn’t play well at all last night. Then again, it just doesn’t beat teams by double-digits and you can’t help but think it may be just a little more relaxed tonight, having clinched last night.
It’s not as if we should have any expectations of the Hawks but I think I’d take any team in the league, at home, getting 8.5 against Miami. Plus, it’s a tiny hedge on my future and I’m losing too much hair letting it all ride on Miami.
Free Pick: Atlanta +8.5