Back Surging Heat +5.5 With Your NBA Picks vs. Raptors

Jason Lake

Saturday, March 12, 2016 7:24 PM GMT

The Miami Heat are 6-1 SU and 5-2 ATS since signing Joe Johnson. That's a spicy NBA pick, but the Heat will be tested this Saturday when they visit the Toronto Raptors.

Jason's 2015-16 record as of March 11: 28-32-1 ATS, 6-2-1 Total

How does that saying go? “Don't let the great be the enemy of the good” or something like that? For most of his 14 years in the NBA, Joe Johnson has been a very good basketball player, getting paid (and named to All-Star teams) like a great one. I've probably said some snarky things about him in this space, and I apologize. The fact remains, Johnson has been a quality scorer for over a decade. Just don't rely on him for defense.

The Miami Heat don't have to. After getting bought out by the Brooklyn Nets, Johnson finds himself in a much better situation down south. They need his offensive gifts more than anything, and Johnson has delivered in spades, helping the Heat win six of their last seven games at 5-2 ATS. But that was against substandard opposition; the real test comes Saturday night (7:00 p.m. ET) when Miami visits the Toronto Raptors. Toronto opened as a 6-point chalk on the NBA odds board.

 

Some Places Are Like Your Auntie

First things first, it's time to hit up our usual gang of hoops nerds for their projections:

FiveThirtyEight (CARM-Elo): Toronto –7
Basketball-Reference (SRS): Toronto –6.53

Pretty much in the same time zone as usual. The Heat (38-27 SU, 35-29-1 ATS) are playing the second of back-to-back games, which CARM-Elo would have accounted for. There's some travel in there, too; Miami beat the Chicago Bulls (+4 at home) 118-96 on Friday, with Johnson (16.4 PER, +0.7 BPM in his first six games) among the five Heat players scoring in double figures.

On this day, it was Goran Dragic (14.8 PER, +0.4 BPM) leading Miami with 26 points on 10-of-16 shooting. You can see how comfortable he is running the offense now that Johnson is in the starting lineup – and Hassan Whiteside (25.8 PER, +2,5 BPM) isn't. Whiteside is one of the greatest defenders in the NBA, but if he's not dunking, he's not scoring. He's better suited coming in off the bench for now.

 

Cool Hand Luke
The Raptors (43-20 SU, 34-29 ATS) have a guy like that. Bismack Biyombo (13.7 PER, –0.9 BPM) is a notch below Whiteside at both ends of the floor, but he's been a godsend for Toronto, providing first-rate rim protection and rebounding. Biyombo's defense has been even more valuable with DeMarre Carroll (11.4 PER, –0.3 BPM) out long-term and James Johnson (11.4 PER, –0.5 BPM) back in the doghouse again. Must... avoid... Johnson jokes...

The Raptors do have other options for defense. Lucas Nogueira (17.8 PER, +2.7 BPM) and his magnificent hair are both ready for prime time. And this past Tuesday, Jason Thompson had a very nice game for Toronto filling in for Luis Scola versus the Brooklyn Nets. The Raps had to fight back to win 104-99 as 12.5-point home faves, but Thompson played well enough to post a +4.3 BPM, including +3.8 on defense. Perhaps if head coach Dwane Casey would use these guys more, we'd feel more comfortable putting Toronto, one of the best Eastern Conference teams, in our NBA picks next time.

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NBA Pick: Heat +5.5
Best Line Offered: at Pinnacle