Free NBA Picks for Heat vs. Clippers

Jason Lake

Wednesday, February 5, 2014 12:37 PM UTC

Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014 12:37 PM UTC

We’ve all seen what the Miami Heat have been up to lately. Can the Los Angeles Clippers get back on track and beat the NBA lines Wednesday night at Staples?

Jason’s record on his early NBA picks for 2013-14, up to February 3 inclusive:

59-43-1 ATS

14-13 Totals

You know it, I know it, the American people know it: The Miami Heat are no fun right now. Either they’re running on fumes after three excellent years with The Big Three, or more likely, they’ve geared down in order to conserve energy for another deep run into the postseason. Either way you slice it, Miami is 5-2 SU and 2-5 ATS in its last seven games, and 11-20 ATS since the start of December.

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Clippers have hit a minor speed bump on the way to the playoffs. They’re 2-2 SU and 1-3 ATS in their last four games – maybe because they’re tired after that seven-game Grammy-induced road trip. Both of L.A.’s losses were also on the road, to the Golden State Warriors (–6.5) and the Denver Nuggets (+1.5), so maybe getting back to Staples Center will sort things out. Wednesday’s early NBA lines have the Clippers favored by 1.5 points with a total of 209.5.

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Haircut One Hundred

Since I’ve also mentioned it elsewhere today, I’d better repeat it here: The Heat (34-13 SU, 20-27 ATS) are 3-7 ATS in their last 10 games against opponents who scored 100 points or more in their previous game. That’s because they’re lollygagging it on defense. Conveniently enough, the Clippers (34-17 SU, 29-22 ATS) scored 115 points against Denver, and more importantly, they have the No. 3-ranked offense on the NBA efficiency charts (108.1 points per 100 possessions).

Los Angeles added a little extra zest on Monday when they signed former Lakers SG Sasha Vujacic to a 10-day contract. Vujacic has spent the past two years playing for the Anadolu Efes of the Turkish Basketball League, and even got to work alongside ex-teammate Jordan Farmar last season. He can still hit the three-pointer (37.6 percent last year), so this gives L.A. one more perimeter option off the bench to go with Hedo Turkoglu (12.5 PER). At least Vujacic can’t be much worse than Stephen Jackson (0.2 PER) was. Worth a shot.

The Walrus Was Paul

The Clippers are otherwise at full capacity on the wings with J.J. Redick (17.3 PER) returning to action on Jan. 10 after missing a month with a torn ligament in his wrist. L.A. is 9-4 SU and 7-6 ATS since Redick’s return; he’s shooting 39.6 percent from long range this year, and his presence allows Jamal Crawford (17.3 PER) to reclaim his familiar sixth man role. Their offense allows Los Angeles to give defensive stalwart Matt Barnes (8.7 PER) plenty of minutes despite his poor production.

There’s just one piece of the puzzle missing: Chris Paul (27.5 PER). The best point guard in the league could return from his shoulder injury on Friday, so Wednesday’s matchup (10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN) could be the last time we see Darren Collison (17.5 PER) getting the start for L.A. The Clippers should certainly improve with Paul back in the lineup, but it might be harder for them to beat the NBA lines, given how well Collison has performed in relief.

From a basketball betting perspective, bench strength was the pivotal concern for the Heat this year, and things looked fantastic early on with the way Michael Beasley (17.2 PER) was doing. But for whatever reason, he’s hardly getting any minutes these days. And while Greg Oden (16.3 PER) is getting better with every game he plays, it’s like spinning the roulette wheel as far as which games he appears in. I’ve gotten burned with the Heat recently, but taking a long-term view and also picking and choosing the best spots should get us through. This looks like a good fading spot.

NBA Pick: Take the Clippers –1 at Bookmaker

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