Heat, Nets Solid Dogs While Trying To Keep Pace In East Race

Thursday, February 21, 2019 2:45 PM UTC

Thursday, Feb. 21, 2019 2:45 PM UTC

Philadelphia will be without Joel Embiid against Miami, while Portland begins an East Coast road trip at Brooklyn. Both teams will struggle to find their way in their post-All-Star journeys.

Miami (26-30 SU, 29-27 ATS) at Philadelphia (37-21 SU, 28-30 ATS)

Thursday, 7 p.m. ET
Free NBA Pick: Heat ATS
Best Line Offered: 5Dimes

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The Miami Heat opened as 9-point underdogs to Philadelphia, but that was before news broke that 76ers All-Star Joel Embiid would be out at least a week due to a knee sprain. The Heat jumped to just 6.5-point underdogs to a still-stacked Philadelphia team, and Miami very much needs this game to stay alive in a fleeting Eastern Conference playoff race.

Thursday's game will be a rematch of last year's Eastern Conference first-round series, which the 76ers won in five hard-fought games. The Heat will begin their move to the postseason at 26-30, tied with the Detroit Pistons for the eighth and final playoff spot in the East.

Miami has been inconsistent all season, with only one win streak longer than two games. But the Heat recently completed a 2-3 trip to the West Coast, including wins over Portland and Dallas and competitive battles with Sacramento and Golden State. The advantage Miami has in this game is the fact they have a superb 18-11 road record ATS this season, while Philadelphia has struggled to take care of business at home with a mark of 16-15.

One thing Miami will try to exploit in Embiid's absence is forcing Ben Simmons into more action offensively. The primary ball-handler, Simmons is a non-shooting threat and in certain situations, teams will sag off of him because they are not afraid of his jumper. That is what happened when Philadelphia faced the Washington Wizards on Sunday night and lost.

The Heat had to get over a bout of early season injuries, especially to star center Hassan Whiteside. Whiteside is anchoring the Heat defense with his 2.1 blocks and 12.4 rebounds per game. While Whiteside is doing his job at protecting the paint, the rest of the team has to improve at keeping teams off the 3-point line. Whiteside should have a major advantage with Embiid being out and Miami will need to capitalize on this golden opportunity to steal a road win to start their post All-Star break run.

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Going hard right out of the All-Star break!#HEATCulture pic.twitter.com/4p1pI9Nihv

— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) February 20, 2019
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Portland (34-23 SU, 31-26 ATS) at Brooklyn (30-29 SU, 33-26 ATS)

Thursday, 7:30 p.m. ET
Free NBA Pick: Nets ATS
Best Line Offered: Bovada

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The Portland Trail Blazers resume play after the All-Star break in Brooklyn against the surprising Nets. The game is the first of a seven-game road trip that includes games in Philadelphia, Boston, and Toronto. Portland has lost their last two road games but went into All-Star weekend on a high note with a 129-107 home victory over the Golden State Warriors.

With 30 wins, the Nets have already surpassed their win total from each of the previous three seasons. Led by All-Star D’Angelo Russell and 3-point contest champion Joe Harris, Brooklyn is in the playoff hunt for the first time since 2015. Despite losing five of their last seven games heading into the break, the Nets are in the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference.

Both Portland and Brooklyn are led by their All-Star point guards. Portland's Damian Lillard is listed as questionable with a sprained left ankle, but he just played in Sunday’s All-Star Game. Brooklyn’s Russell is finally showing the promise that made him the second overall pick in the 2015 draft. He’s putting up career highs of 20.3 points and 6.6 assist per game while shooting 37.2 percent beyond the arc. The 22-year-old has played better as the season has progressed, averaging 24.4 points per game since the calendar switched to 2019.

Portland’s newest acquisition is expected to make his Blazers debut on Thursday. Enes Kanter averaged 14 points and 10.5 rebounds in 25.6 minutes per game for the New York Knicks this season. The eight-year veteran has had particular success against the Nets this season, averaging 22.3 points on 65.9 percent shooting and 13 rebounds in three games (two of which he started) against them. While it remains to be seen how coach Terry Stotts works him into the lineup, Kanter’s scoring and rebounding should provide a nice boost off the bench.

The Blazers have struggled mightily on the road this season, amassing an ATS record of 10-15. Look for Portland to struggle on this East Coast trip as teams gear up for the playoff push, forcing Portland to play more physical and out of their comfort zone.

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