NBA Picks: Defense Will Dictate Game 5 Between Hornets & Heat

Jason Lake

Tuesday, April 26, 2016 5:16 PM GMT

The Charlotte Hornets have evened their first-round series with the Miami Heat, but the NBA odds say Miami should regain control after Wednesday's Game 5.

Jason's 2015-16 record as of April 25: 36-40-1 ATS, 8-3-1 Total

Charlotte Hornets vs. Miami Heat
Yes, Charlotte, there is a Santa Claus. The Charlotte Hornets have come back from the near-dead in their Eastern Conference quarterfinal versus the Miami Heat, squaring the series at 2-2 after winning both their home games. It's quite the comeback after getting squashed in the first two games in Miami. And they did it without Nicolas Batum, too. Crazy times.

 

Fortunately for us, we avoided the crazy by recommending the UNDER for Game 4. The UNDER was 21-9 in playoff action heading into Monday, and they made it 22-9 when the Hornets won 89-85 (UNDER 194.5) as 2.5-point home faves. Why stop now? The Heat may be 5.5-point favorites on the NBA odds board for Wednesday's Game 5 (8:00 p.m. ET, TNT) as we go to press, but that total of 193 points still looks worth exploiting.

 

Get Thigh Bearings
First, an injury update. Hassan Whiteside (25.7 PER, +2.5 BPM) did indeed play in Game 4, despite concerns over his sore thigh. Whiteside wasn't at his best, but he was still a plus-2 on the night with an economical eight points on 3-of-5 shooting, along with seven rebounds and three blocks. Whiteside told reporters afterward that he expected to be more explosive in Game 5.

As for Batum, (15.6 PER, +2.0 BPM) we don't have any updates about his strained left foot, but there was some talk he might be available for Game 4 after his recovery went more quickly than expected. Consider him “questionable” for Game 5. Batum is a solid two-way player, so let's call it a wash against the total whether he plays or not. It isn't, of course, but close enough for government work.

 

Linsanity It Seems
Meanwhile, we can't say for certain whether Charlotte has really got this thing figured out now. In Game 3, it was the retooled starting lineup that got the Hornets over the hump. That same starting lineup was largely outplayed in Game 4, but Jeremy Lin (13.8 PER, –1.1 BPM) had 21 points off the bench for Charlotte, and Cody Zeller (16.1 PER, +1.0 BPM) led all players at plus-20. Either way, it appears the Hornets have managed to mitigate some of Miami's size advantage in this series.

If Whiteside does indeed regain some of his explosiveness for Game 5, the advantage should swing back in the other direction. But we're not going to stake our NBA picks on Whiteside's self-prognosis. We're going to stick with the UNDER while it's hot; the total has gradually adjusted downward from 199 points in the opener, so there's going to be a tipping point where the betting value disappears. However, Miami (No. 7 overall) and Charlotte (No. 9) are two of the NBA's Top 10 teams in defensive efficiency, and they're both in the bottom half of the league in terms of pace, so we like our chances.

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Free NBA Pick: Under 193
Best Line Offered: at Bookmaker