The basketball betting lines aren’t fooled – these aren’t the same Dallas Mavericks who beat the Miami Heat at the 2011 NBA Finals. Where are we looking to place our NBA picks in this Friday Night battle.
Jason’s record on his final NBA picks for 2013, up to November 13 inclusive: 3-7 ATS
Dirk Nowitzki and Shawn Marion. Those are the only two players left from the Dallas Mavericks team that upset the Miami Heat in six games to win the 2010-11 NBA championship. For that matter, the Heat have made plenty of changes since then, as well – changes for the better in their case.
The NBA odds tell part of the story: Miami is an 8.5-point home fave for Friday night’s matchup (7:30 p.m., FSN) with the Mavs, and our early consensus figures show 85 percent support for the Heat. But if what we saw this past Tuesday is true, it’s a miracle that Miami isn’t pushing 100 percent.
When the Big Three of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh were first assembled in South Beach, the main complaint with the Heat was their lack of bench strength. There just wasn’t much money left to sign enough complementary players. Miami almost won the title anyway, but the Mavericks had other ideas. They also had former Sixth Man of the Year Jason Terry, J.J. Barea, a healthy Rodrigue Beaubois, Brendan Haywood, Brian Cardinal… you get the idea.
Miami was able to sign more players in Year Two (Shane Battier) and Year Three (Ray Allen, Chris Andersen), beefing up the bench and winning not one, but two championships. The Mavericks, meanwhile, have been shedding talent. All those reserves I mentioned are gone. Tyson Chandler is gone. Jason Kidd is gone. The Mavs (5-3 SU and ATS) are essentially marking time, throwing together whatever available veterans (Jose Calderon, Sam Dalembert) they can put around Nowitzki while the youngsters develop.
Release the Kraken
Having said that, from an NBA betting perspective, the question with the Heat (5-3 SU, 3-5 ATS) is still the same: Do they have enough bench strength? Wade (18.7 PER) is 32 in human years and about 50 in NBA years. Mike Miller has gone back to Memphis. Miami’s key offseason acquisitions were two players who had a very real possibility of playing zero minutes: SF Michael Beasley and center Greg Oden.
Indeed, Oden has yet to play during the regular season. Beasley, on the other hand, was allowed to come off the bench last week for a token appearance against the Toronto Raptors, and he promptly hit a pair of 3-pointers. Then his minutes were doubled against the Boston Celtics, from four to eight, and Beasley scored another 10 points. On Tuesday, Beasley was given a proper 20 minutes off the bench against the Milwaukee Bucks, and he exploded for 19 points as Miami (–13.5) won 118-95.
The Heat Is On
This is exactly what Miami had in mind – and what opponents were afraid would happen – when Beasley was signed on the cheap after wearing out his welcome with the Phoenix Suns. There’s no question he can score (19.3 points, 7.1 rebounds per 36 minutes lifetime), but Beasley has also gotten himself in hot water on multiple occasions, mostly for smoking the wonderful green stuff.
We’ll see if Beasley manages to get himself in trouble again. Until that happens, he’s earned himself a regular spot in the Miami rotation, and as chalky as the defending two-time champions are, they’ve got NBA betting value with Beasley coming off the bench. It would be easier to bet them against a struggling team; Dallas has actually assembled a fairly good cast of players around Nowitzki, and the past couple of years out of the spotlight has given the Mavs some of their value back. So I’m recommending the OVER in this matchup; it’s 6-2 for Miami and 5-3 for Dallas thus far.NBA Pick: Take OVER 207.5 (+100) at Pinnacle