NBA Picks: Heat vs. Cavaliers

Jason Lake

Wednesday, November 27, 2013 1:17 PM GMT

The Cleveland Cavaliers beat the NBA lines in three of their four games last year against LeBron James and the Miami Heat. Are the Cavs getting too many points again this Wednesday night?

Jason’s record on his final NBA picks for 2013, up to November 26 inclusive:

9-12 ATS

2-1 Totals

Remember that slow start the Miami Heat got off to this year? Yeah, that didn’t last long. The defending two-time NBA champions have won seven straight games at 5-2 ATS to take the lead in the Southeast Division at 11-3 (7-7 ATS). And that march should continue Wednesday night when Miami visits the Cleveland Cavaliers (4-10 SU, 3-11 ATS). The Cavs are the worst team in the league against the NBA point spreads, and they’re 8.5-point home dogs on Wednesday’s basketball odds.

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Progress & Prosperity (For You)

Just where the Cavs want ‘em. It’s been a rough road for Cleveland ever since LeBron James took his talents to South Beach; the Heat have won 10 of their 11 games against the Cavaliers since The Decision, including the last seven in a row. But there’s a silver lining for Cavs supporters. The NBA lines in those matchups have gotten so inflated, Cleveland covered three of its four meetings with Miami last year. The only failure was in a meaningless April game that James (and Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh, and Mario Chalmers) sat out.

Encouraging. But then again, the Cavaliers were a nice sleeper pick last year before folding up their tents in the final month of the regular season, dropping 16 of their last 18 games at 6-11-1 ATS en route to yet another lottery pick. The balls bounced their way and they grabbed forward Anthony Bennett No. 1 overall in the 2013 NBA Draft. And everything’s gone pear-shaped ever since.

I Left My Shoulder in Las Vegas

Bennett was considered something of a reach at No. 1. He wasn’t the most game-ready of the top available prospects, but Bennett’s upside was too tantalizing for Cleveland to pass up: power, athleticism and soft hands. All three qualities were on display last year in Las Vegas, as Bennett scored 23.7 points and grabbed 12.0 rebounds per 40 minutes with the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels. Easy comparisons were drawn with former UNLV star and 1991 first-overall pick Larry Johnson.

One key difference: Johnson was excellent right out of the gate. Bennett has been anything but. He missed his first 16 shots in a row, and is clearly still working himself into game shape after undergoing shoulder surgery during the offseason. It shouldn’t be that big of a deal – again, Cleveland made this pick for the future. But the present Cavs have some serious holes in the frontline that need filling ASAP.

Three in the Key

The plan was to play Bennett at small forward next to PF and fellow Canadian Tristan Thompson (12.5 points, 10.0 rebounds per 36 minutes), but the starting role has gone instead to Alonzo Gee, and he’s making a meal of it (6.6 points, 4.5 boards/36). Earl Clark (11.1 points, 6.6 boards/36) isn’t faring much better. Here’s how the advanced stats look for all three players at the 3-spot:

Clark: 9.4 PER, minus-5.1 Simple Rating

Gee: 7.6 PER, minus-9.2

Bennett: 2.3 PER, minus-12.5

Great googly-moogly. How’s that going to hold up against a Heat team that has LeBron (30.6 PER, plus-10.6) at small forward? Not only that, Miami’s current seven-game winning streak coincides with the unleashing of SF Michael Beasley (21.6 PER, plus-11.5) off the bench. As long as Beasley is behaving himself and not partaking in the Devil’s Lettuce, I’ll be pounding the Heat all day long and twice on Wednesday (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN).

Special update: For some reason, BetDSI has Miami listed at +4 as we go to press. Take it if it’s available.

NBA Pick: Take the Heat –8.5 at BetCRIS