Jason’s record on his early NBA picks for 2013-14, up to March 27 inclusive:
The Miami Heat aren’t giving up the fight just yet. They moved back within two games of the Eastern Conference lead on Friday with a commanding 110-78 win over the Detroit Pistons (+5 at home), and in the process, the Heat got paid in back-to-back contests for the first time in a month. And they did it without four of their regular players; Dwyane Wade (22.0 PER), Mario Chalmers (13.7 PER), Greg Oden (12.9 PER) and Ray Allen (12.8 PER) all sat this one out with assorted bumps and bruises.
Now we just have to figure out who’s going to play on Saturday (8:30 p.m. ET) against the Milwaukee Bucks. The linesmakers didn’t hesitate to make Milwaukee a 9.5-point home dog on the NBA odds board, and with a game like this, you can imagine bettors won’t be paying much attention to Miami’s roster situation – as long as LeBron James (29.1 PER) is playing. Excellent. Cue the evil music and the lightning bolts.
Last in the NBA, First in Your Hearts
That’s right: It’s time to bet on the Bucks (14-58 SU, 33-39 ATS) again. This has been a fantastic month for the last-place team in the standings; they’ve won just three of their 15 games in March, but they’ve made a big pile of money along the way at 9-6 ATS. Stretch that record back another three games, and Milwaukee is 4-14 SU and 12-6 ATS since Ramon Sessions (20.8 PER in Milwaukee) re-joined his former team at the trade deadline.
It’s not all that surprising to see Sessions putting up big numbers now that he’s getting another tour of duty as a starting guard. But this might be the best basketball he’s ever played. Sessions and Brandon Knight (16.6 PER) have formed quite a nifty backcourt duo, with Knight (19.1 points per game) leading the team in raw scoring this month and Sessions (15.9 ppg) not too far behind. They combined for 52 points in Thursday’s 108-105 win over the Los Angeles Lakers (+2.5 away). Not bad for a tanking team.
Put Giannis Antetokounmpo (11.2 PER) in the mix as a reserve guard, and Milwaukee’s got plenty of hops on the perimeter. Ah, but Antetokounmpo sprained his ankle against Los Angeles and is listed as day-to-day. O.J. Mayo (11.3 PER) is also iffy for Saturday with the same injury. Darn it – this is why we can’t have nice things.
The Other King James
Miami’s own uncertain backcourt situation is ripe for exploitation – by somebody better equipped than Detroit, that is. The Heat (49-22 SU, 32-37-2 ATS) were able to cruise Friday night with a starting lineup that included Toney Douglas (7.9 PER) at point guard and James Jones (19.3 PER in limited action) as a swingman. They combined for 19 points, while Norris Cole (9.2 PER) did a fine job off the bench with 12 points and seven assists in 32 minutes.
Again, this was against the Pistons, who have essentially given up on the season and aren’t playing with the same kind of zest as Milwaukee. Compare and contrast: Detroit has the same 4-14 SU record over the past 18 games, but at 8-10 ATS. At least the Bucks have some chemistry.
They also had the luxury of resting at home on Friday while the Heat were working at The Palace. Maybe we’ll see some of Miami’s missing four players suit up on Saturday. Maybe Michael Beasley (16.4 PER) will get a shot after playing five minutes against Detroit. Maybe, maybe, maybe. I’ll stick with the Bucks, but keep an eye on those lineups anyway before you place your NBA bets.
NBA Pick: Take the Bucks +9.5 (–108) at Pinnacle