Miami Heat (35-14 SU, 21-18 ATS)
It looked as though the Heat would hardly break a sweat in order to lock up their fourth consecutive victory when they traveled to Utah as 9 ½ point favorites in NBA odds but it didn't turn out that way. LeBron James, who had been on a torrid pace scoring 30 or more points in three of his last four and shooting north of 52 percent in nine of his last 10 games, came crashing back to earth with a clunker that saw him hit just 4-of-13 for a total of 13 points. When the dust settled, the struggling Jazz hooked the biggest fish of their dismal season with a 94-89 victory over Miami.
However, if there is a remedy for what ailed LeBron on Saturday night it might just be a trip to the desert. The Heat have won their last five contests in Phoenix and nobody has thrived more in the dry air than LeBron James. James has averaged over 32 points per game and has shot better than 55 percent over his last seven games against Phoenix. In their last meeting, held in Miami, King James went off with 35 points on 11 of 14 shooting. He hopes to regain that form against one of the Western Conference's better teams.
Phoenix Suns (30-20 SU, 33-16-1 ATS)
If it were not for the career-high scoring performance of Goran Dragic, the Suns could very well be staggering into tonight's contest on a three-game losing streak. Dragic was unconscious late in the game when he drained 13 of his career best 34 points in the final half of the fourth quarter to lead Phoenix to a 122-109 victory over the Golden State Warriors. The win put an end to a two-game losing skein and keeps Phoenix in the thick of a three horse race for the final three Western Conference playoff seeds.
While the Suns can be virtually unstoppable when they are in a groove the same cannot be said of their defense. The team is averaging over 105 points per game but are allowing almost 102 which doesn't allow much wiggle room in the event of a cold shooting night. They will need to shoot the lights out when Miami dribbles into town because the Heat can score almost as well as the Suns but they bring a better than decent brand of defense to the table.
Free NBA Pick:
As I peruse what the offshore books are offering in their NBA odds I am a bit conflicted here. The Heat have owned the series recently, going 5-0 ATS in NBA odds when facing the Suns in Phoenix and registering a 6-1 ATS mark over the course of their last seven meetings. The Suns have not claimed a straight up victory over Miami in well over four years.
So what do we do with this information? Do we blindly beat the Heat believing that this string will continue in perpetuity or do we take a look at how the Heat played in their last matchup on Saturday night when they dropped a game to one of the weakest sisters in the NBA, the Utah Jazz? There are certainly those that will contend that the Heat will be even more ready for tonight's game as they will want to atone for their poor performance and Phoenix just happens to be the next team standing in their way.
But I am going to be that contrarian guy in this particular case. I believe the Suns are good enough to hang with the Heat at this stage of the season and they may have their own atoning to do after their last meeting in which they got blasted down in Miami by the score of 107-92. Give me the hot shooting team with the head start at home all day long.
In your NBA picks play the Phoenix Suns +4 ½ at WilliamHill.com.