The final 25-game stretch of the NBA’s regular season tipped last night. Night two has a slightly bigger card and I’m playing one game between the Miami Heat and the New Orleans Pelicans.
New Orleans is giving away either 2.5 or 3 points, depending where you do your shopping. The total is at 214, up to 214.5. This is the first game back from the all-star break for both teams.
Anthony Davis tore up the Lakers, Pistons and Nets in consecutive games before the all-star break, scoring between 38 and 44 points in each. Neither of those three teams have anybody worthy of drawing the assignment of marking Davis one-on-one.
But Miami does. Bam Adebayo won’t get the recognition as an All-NBA defender at the end of his rookie season but he ought to. He doesn’t always play a ton of minutes because Hassan Whiteside always starts at the five and either Kelly Olynyk, James Johnson and Justise Winslow starts at the four.
But Olynyk is still out with a bum shoulder; Johnson and Whiteside aren’t nimble enough to defend Davis and Winslow would be giving up a ton of size. Bam isn’t a unicorn but he is a unicorn stopper. Miami played Milwaukee twice in 15 games before the break and Adebayo averaged 30 minutes per game because he is Miami’s best defender to throw at the Greek Freak.
Otherwise, Miami is better at every position. It has no problem matching New Orleans’ small-ball lineup and might even be able to exploit the Pelicans’ lack of size if Eric Spolestra plays Bam and Whiteside together. Whiteside should be able to handle Nikola Mirotic on defense because he doesn’t put it on the deck very often; on the other end, Whiteside’s size would give NOLA problems on the glass.
But more so than anything else, I’m betting on Miami’s luck to swing after the break. The Heat lost seven of its last eight games prior to the week off: at Philly by two, at Toronto by three, Houston by eight, Orlando by two, at Detroit by four, at Philly by six and at Cleveland by two.
At the least, I expect another close game and when you look at those recent results, three points is no small handicap. For what’s it’s worth, I’m also parlaying the points with the under.
Free Pick: Miami +3