NBA Playoffs Picks: Take Heat -4.5 In Game 2 Against Hornets

Tuesday, April 19, 2016 7:30 PM GMT

The Miami Heat stomped a mudhole in the Charlotte Hornets last Sunday. Yet the NBA odds are starting to move toward Charlotte for Game 2 Wednesday night.

Jason's 2015-16 record as of April 19: 34-38-1 ATS, 6-3-1 Total

Well, that didn't go according to plan. We had the Charlotte Hornets as 4.5-point road dogs for Game 1 of their Eastern Conference first-round matchup with the Miami Heat. Not a very difficult pick to make, either. Final score: Miami 123, Charlotte 91. Holy doodle. Luol Deng scored 31 points for the Heat, while Hassan Whiteside put up 21 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks in just 26 minutes.

Is this enough to make us change our minds and put the Heat in our NBA picks for Game 2 this Wednesday (7:00 p.m. ET, NBA-TV)? Well... Miami is still favored by 4.5 points as we go to press, but that's down from –5 at the open. Our consensus reports show 87 percent of first responders grabbing the Hornets. Maybe the sharp pick is still the sharp pick.

Domination Nation
The infamous zigzag theory definitely wants you to take the Hornets. Miami happened to shoot 9-of-18 from downtown in Game 1, while Charlotte was a more pedestrian 6-of-17. Both teams are likely to regress toward the mean in Game 2; the Hornets (36.2 percent) were seventh in the league from long range this year, while the Heat (33.6 percent) ranked No. 27.

Then again, it's probably going to take more than that for Charlotte to turn the tables Wednesday. The Heat absolutely dominated Game 1 in just about every aspect, including rebounding (42-28), assists (27-11) and turnovers (6-11). This wasn't the same as the opener in the Raptors-Pacers series, where Toronto shot poorly and lost by 10, only to bounce back and win by 11 in Game 2, at roughly the same NBA odds.

The Rhythm Of The Heat
The tricky thing about evaluating the Heat is how much they've changed their shape over the course of the year. The starting lineup we saw in Game 1 only played together for about 80 minutes during the regular season. Joe Johnson (15.2 PER, +0.8 BPM) joined the team in late February, and Whiteside (25.7 PER, +2.5 BPM) was reinserted into the starting five on April 10 after nearly three months of bench duty.

Ah, Hassan Whiteside. Not only has he proven last year wasn't a fluke, Whiteside actually improved this year on defense, posting a league-best 95 Defensive Rating (roughly 95 points allowed per 100 possessions) at Basketball-Reference. His offense has also improved, although it's still below average at –0.9 OBPM. You know what: Screw the zigzag, we're switching sides and recommending the Heat for Wednesday. This hasn't picked up a lot of publicity, but Hornets PG Kemba Walker (20.8 PER, +4.0 BPM) tweaked his knee in the series opener. Asking him to carry this team on his back in Game 2 might be a bit too much.

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Free NBA Pick: Heat –4.5 (–105)
Best Line Offered: at Heritage