It’s time once again to hit up the East, where the top three seeds are all winning handsomely. But what do they have to offer the NBA betting world when they suit up on Thursday?
Jason’s record on his early NBA picks for 2013-14, up to February 25 inclusive:
How do you like your Eastern Conference now? They got off to a rough start on the Right Coast, but as we go to press, there are now five teams in the East with winning records, and it’s conceivable that all eight of their playoff representatives will be above .500 when all is said and done. Mind you, the news is a bit less sunny when you look at the NBA lines – only four profitable teams, with two more at the break-even mark if you ignore the juice. Never ignore the juice.
Check out our last Eastern Conference breakdown!
I’ve been yammering on the past couple of weeks that the Pacers (43-13 SU, 33-22-1 ATS) may have reached peak value on the NBA betting market. They’re 10-6 SU and 5-10-1 ATS since Jan. 22. And while their defense continues to be one of the best ever to grace the hardcourt, their offense has gotten progressively worse, falling to No. 18 on the efficiency charts (102.4 points scored per 100 possessions).
But maybe all that’s about to change. The deadline deal that sent Danny Granger (10.4 PER) to the Philadelphia 76ers for Evan Turner (13.3 PER) is a definite upgrade for the Pacers bench, even if Turner himself is an overvalued commodity. Turner looked pretty good in his Indiana debut against the Los Angeles Lakers, putting up 13 points and six rebounds in 26 minutes as the Pacers (–13.5 at home) cruised to a 118-98 victory. They’ve got an even tastier cupcake on the menu Thursday (7:00 p.m. ET) when the Milwaukee Bucks come to town as 15.5-point puppies.
Looks like it’s go time for the defending champions (40-14 SU, 25-28-1 ATS). They’ve had their foot off the gas pedal since the start of December, but the Heat have beaten the basketball odds in each of their last three games, and they’ve done it in fine fashion. Miami even managed to thump the Chicago Bulls (+5 away) 93-79 on Sunday without the services of LeBron James (29.4 PER), who sat out with a broken nose while Dwyane Wade (21.9 PER) and Chris Bosh (20.3 PER) combined for 51 points and 20 rebounds.
James expects to play on Thursday (8:00 p.m. ET, TNT) against the New York Knicks while wearing a protective mask – although he’s not comfortable with the one he tested out in practice on Wednesday. Miami opened this game as a 10-point home chalk on the NBA odds board; we’ll see if the Heat continue to play like champs, or if their 11-18 ATS record against losing teams gets even worse.
Hosermania is runnin’ wild, brother! The Raptors (32-25 SU, 34-22-1 ATS) have won six of their last seven games at 4-2-1 ATS, extending their lead in the Atlantic Division over the improving Brooklyn Nets while also holding off the hard-charging Bulls for the No. 4 seed in the Eastern playoffs. Toronto’s lineup is almost completely healthy, although guys like Amir Johnson (15.2 PER) and John Salmons (8.4 PER) are playing hurt. And after starting the season on the hot seat, head coach Dwayne Casey has greatly improved his substitution patterns – always easier when you’ve got good players to work with, of course.
The Raptors can put another ‘W’ on the board Thursday night (7:00 p.m. ET, TSN) when they host the Washington Wizards, who have lost Nene (16.4 PER) for the next 4-6 weeks with a sprained MCL. Kevin Seraphin (13.4 PER) is also iffy with a swollen knee. Short on big men, the Wiz have signed Drew Gooden to a 10-day contract, and he’s expected to play against Toronto. Hey, worth a shot.