Free NBA Picks for Heat vs. Wizards

Jason Lake

Wednesday, January 15, 2014 1:21 PM UTC

Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014 1:21 PM UTC

The Miami Heat have been coasting through this extended preseason, but after back-to-back losses on national television, expect them to pound the Washington Wizards and the NBA odds on Wednesday.

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

43-31-1 ATS

12-9 Totals

LeBron James is listening. He’s heard the detractors who say he’s coasting through the 2013-14 regular season, that Kevin Durant is the new MVP. And King James has vowed to do something about it this Wednesday night (7:00 p.m. ET) when his Miami Heat visit the Washington Wizards. This makes the Heat worth some serious consideration as 5.5-point favorites on the NBA lines.

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I’ve Been Besmirched

Don’t blame me, LeBron. I’ve only pointed out that the Heat (27-10 SU, 16-21 ATS) as a team appear to have taken their foot off the gas in the woeful Eastern Conference. Exhibit A: They’ve dropped the cash in eight of their last 11 games. I rest my case. But the unwashed masses have made it personal now that Miami has lost back-to-back road games to the New York Knicks (+8) and the Brooklyn Nets (+5), the first on TNT and the second on ESPN.

Things came to a head when James fouled out of the game against Brooklyn, which almost never happens. He complained afterward about the flagrant 1 foul that Mirza Teletovic delivered against him, and then about the assorted acts of floppery committed by Andrei Kirilenko. Complaining is both America’s most unpardonable sin and its new national pastime; the Internet’s hottest new meme, LeBroning, shows people flopping around on the ground as if they were James himself.

Do Not Taunt Happy Fun Ball

We’ll just ignore for now that James scored 36 points in that overtime loss to the Nets before fouling out. But the stats do show that our reigning and four-time league MVP has taken things down a notch this year, especially on defense. As ESPN’s Tom Haberstroh has already mentioned, the Heat are allowing 103.9 points per 100 possessions when James in on the floor, compared to 96.3 points when he’s on the bench.

This drop-off in defensive intensity doesn’t show up well in Player Efficiency Rating, where James is down marginally this year from 31.6 PER to 29.2 PER. But it does go a long way to explain why the Heat are failing to beat the NBA betting lines. At least up until now: James says he’s got a little sumpin’ sumpin’ in store for the Wizards and his detractors. “We’ll see Wednesday how I’m coasting," James told reporters on Monday. “You'll see the numbers I’ll put up on Wednesday. Just watch.”

Check out our NBA Picks for Chicago Bulls vs. Orlando Magic

Can You Fade Me Now?

James should have every opportunity to exact his revenge. The Wizards (17-19 SU, 20-16 ATS) have played marginal basketball this year in the East, ranking No. 15 in defensive efficiency at press time (102.9 points allowed/100 possessions) and No. 21 on offense (100.7 points/100). They’ve also played substantially better on the road at 10-10 SU and 13-7 ATS, compared to 7-9 SU and ATS at The Phone Booth.

On top of that, Miami has been idle since losing to the Nets on Friday. Rest and recuperation is incredibly important for this aging Heat team; James has been dealing with nagging injuries, while Dwayne Wade (22.7 PER) has required more maintenance days than a ’76 Chevette. Mario Chalmers (15.2 PER) is expected to be a game-time decision after missing Monday’s practice with his sore Achilles’ tendon, but Shane Battier (8.7 PER) is expected to return from his quad injury.

Basketball is a team sport, and James is only as good as his teammates. But at the same time, the Heat are only as good as James, and he figures to be very, very good on Wednesday. I wouldn’t want to bet against him in this situation.

NBA Pick: Take the Heat –5.5 (–108) at Pinnacle

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