Jason’s record on his early NBA picks for 2013-14, up to March 24 inclusive:
No more excuses. The Miami Heat have been playing at three-quarters speed since the holidays, but here we are in late March, and they’re still only two games behind the Indiana Pacers for first place in the Eastern Conference. That’s because the Pacers have also taken it down a notch, although in their case, it might not be all that voluntary. Indiana is 8-7 SU and 2-13 ATS in its past 15 games heading into Wednesday’s matchup (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN) with the Heat, who are 8-7 SU and 5-9-1 ATS over the same span.
My Left Foot
Well, perhaps one more excuse. As we go to press, we’re not entirely certain whether or not Dwyane Wade (22.2 PER) will play for Miami. This has gone beyond “maintenance day” confusion; Wade has a strained left Achilles that kept him out of the past two games. As a result, the NBA lines for this contest have yet to be released as we go to press.
Wade’s status may officially be up in the air until Wednesday’s midday shootaround, but it appears that all systems are go for him to suit up. The former MVP put in a full practice on Tuesday and said he felt “good.” But Miami is understandably taking every precaution before pencilling Wade into the starting lineup.
As important as Wade is to Miami’s success, he’s given the Heat mixed results in their two meetings with Indiana this season. On Dec. 10, Wade was a team worst minus-18 as the Pacers (–3.5) won 90-84 at home. Eight days later in Miami, Wade exploded for a team-high 32 points in a 97-94 victory, although it was Indiana once again beating the NBA lines as a 4-point puppy.
Those may as well have been ABA games. Neither team has looked the same since the calendar flipped over to 2014, and the Heat have been cycling through a number of different lineups lately as they deal with Wade’s absences. They’ve also been straying from the “small ball” approach now that Greg Oden (12.4 PER) has been activated; Oden made his fifth start of the year on Monday and played a season-high 15 minutes in a 93-91 win over his former employers, the Portland Trail Blazers (+6.5 away).
As for the Pacers, we’ve had the chance to analyze them up and down during this slump, and the story remains the same: bad defense, worse bench play. Evan Turner no longer represents an upgrade over Danny Granger after scoring just three points in 20 minutes during Monday’s 89-77 loss to the Chicago Bulls (–1.5 at home). Let’s compare and contrast:
Turner: 10.7 PER, .491 TS%, 19.5 USG%, 98 ORtg, 101 DRtg, 0.081 WS/48
Granger: 10.4 PER, .491 TS%, 19.7 USG%, 98 ORtg, 101 DRtg, 0.082 WS/48
Turner is actually playing worse than he did with the Philadelphia 76ers (13.2 PER), while Granger has found new life with the Los Angeles Clippers (15.5 PER). That tells you something about the quality of the players around them. Indiana’s bench just hasn’t delivered this year, and it doesn’t help that C.J. Watson (12.5 PER) has missed 10 of the past 11 games with a strained hamstring. Watson isn’t expected to play this week and might only see a few minutes here and there until the playoffs get underway. Which gives me enough reason to pick the Heat and their deeper lineup. You might want to wait for confirmation on Wade’s status before doing the same.
NBA Pick: Take the Heat