The Miami Heat visit the Cleveland Cavaliers for this 8:05 ET tip on ESPN with NBA odds favoring the home team by 12.5 points. The NBA odds total sits at 192.5. What's the best pick?
Miami Heat vs. Cleveland Cavaliers (-12) 8:05 ET ESPN
These teams have had a very divergent first half of the season. With LeBron James wearing a Miami uniform, the Heat went 66-16 SU and 54-28 SU in the last two regular seasons. Both Miami teams were good enough to be the Eastern Conference representative in each of the last 2 NBA finals. This year, Miami is floundering at 22-29 SU, averaging less than 93 PPG (the 3rd worst scoring offense in the league). Tonight, Dwayne Wade will rest his ailing hamstring prior to the All-Star break. With James returning to Cleveland, the Cavs’ fortunes have taken a dramatic turn. In the previous 2 seasons, Cleveland went 24-58 SU and 33-49 SU. Let’s take a look inside this dramatic season of Cleveland to see how they have achieved a record of 32-21 SU, good for 5th place in the Eastern Conference race.
In early January, Cleveland stood 19-20 SU at the nadir of their discontent. Their best rebounder Varejao had been lost for the season, scoring guard Dion Waiters had been traded and LeBron was resting his ailing knees. In some savvy trade deals, Cavs’ management brought in Mozgov to replace Varejao and then added JR Smith to replace Waiters and Shumpert as a defensive stopper. Along with their terrific trio of scorers, in PG Irving, Love and James, the chemistry began to click on both ends of the floor for Cleveland. They enter tonight on a 13-1 SU, 11-3 ATS run (which is reflected with their status as favorites in NBA odds today). Nine of those games have been at home with 7 of them resulting in wins by 10 or more points. Love responded to James Twitter message in urging the big man to “fit in” with a 32 point, 10 rebound performance in a 120-105 win over the Lakers on Sunday. In the current stretch, Cleveland is averaging 108 PPG. James is averaging 28 PPG on 50% shooting. Everyone admits that their chemistry is the best it has been all season. Do not expect Cleveland to take Miami lightly. Cleveland has lost 11 straight times to Miami with James playing for the Heat in 10 of those games.
The Heat are clearly floundering without James. A 109-95 win over NY on Monday, a game in which they trailed by 14 points, ended a 3-game slide. Now, they play Cleveland without Wade, who will miss his 7th straight game with a hamstring injury. The 2-man tandem of Bosh and Deng is simply not enough.
I am fully aware that Cleveland travels to Eastern Conference rival Chicago tomorrow night to close out the 1st half of the season. But with the ESPN cameras whirring, my NBA pick remains the same: I expect nothing but an optimal performance from Cleveland tonight.
NBA Picks: Take Cleveland Cavaliers at Pinnacle