The Heat got a desperately needed victory over the New York Knicks on Monday night courtesy of a 32-point night from Chris Bosh. That victory snapped a three-game losing streak. It also ensured that Miami continues to cling onto the eighth and final seed in the Eastern conference playoff picture.
This team’s problem is that it struggles to compete on the boards and it struggles to score. Luol Deng hasn’t looked like the Deng who at times played as the #1 offensive option for the Chicago Bulls, while Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole haven’t formed an especially effective backcourt. Things have only been worse when Dwyane Wade is out. The Heat’s leading scorer is set to miss his seventh straight game tonight. On a more positive note, he is expected to return from his hamstring injury after the All-Star break.
In Wade’s absence, it falls on Chris Bosh to shoulder a greater load of the offensive burden. Averaging 21 points and seven rebounds per game, Bosh is having his best year statistically with the Miami organization. Still, he hasn’t quite stepped up in the way that the franchise would have hoped, and his contract warranted. His field goal percentage is currently lower than it ever has been since he came to Miami, and all too often Bosh disappears in the tougher games.
Miami’s currently dysfunctional lineup could hardly be better contrasted against a Cavaliers team that has come together. Timofey Mozgov, Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith have balanced this team out in a big way and it seems that Kyrie Irving and James have developed a good understanding as the offensive driving forces of the team. Even Kevin Love broke out of his recent slump knocking down 32 points against the LA Lakers on Sunday.
Cleveland looks balanced thanks to the presences of Shumpert and Mozgov on the bench, while Smith provides additional scoring punch in support. Arguably, most importantly has been the new offensive balance between Irving and James. A mutual respect has clearly developed and rather than feel the need to compete with one another for shots and scoring opportunities, it seems that the two have settled on an offensive rhythm, and it’s working.
Betting Preview: Miami (+12.5) at Cleveland
The odds have gotten worse for the Miami Heat over the last couple of days. No Wade combined with the Cavaliers exceptional form makes them a huge long shot to win. Still, 13 points is a huge advantage for Cleveland even in this scenario. Erik Spoelstra still has his Heat playing pretty decent defensive basketball and there will be a point of pride in this contest for the likes of Bosh and Chalmers. The Cavaliers will win this contest, but the best gamble is against that spread.
The Pick: Miami (+12.5) (www.betonline.ag)
Writer’s Record Against The Spread: 25-17