Our latest tour of the Eastern Conference takes us on a Florida vacation, where both the Miami Heat and the Orlando Magic have gone ice-cold against the NBA betting lines.
Jason’s record on his early NBA picks for 2013-14, up to January 30 inclusive:
Following up on last week’s look at the Eastern Conference, the starting five has been named for the 2014 NBA All-Star Game, and the usual suspects are there: LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony, along with Paul George, since voters aren’t forced to choose a center anymore. The only “controversy” is with the second guard on the list: Kyrie Irving (20.2 PER) of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
I use the ironic quotes because, of course, nobody south of the 49th Parallel cares about the Toronto Raptors and Kyle Lowry (20.0 PER), who’s easily the best point guard in the East right now. Lowry didn’t even finish among the Top 10 backcourt players. But Derrick Rose was there – in fourth place. Rajon Rondo finished sixth. Oh well, it’s the fans voting, and they’re the ones who make the NBA betting lines so soft for us. Expect a little more backlash when the All-Star reserves are announced and Lowry is still left off the team.
Lowry was at it again Wednesday night, dumping 33 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds on the Magic (12-35 SU, 19-28 ATS) in a 98-83 victory. Orlando lost as a 9.5-point road dog, dropping the cash for the third game in a row after a brief 4-2 ATS run. There was some good news for the Magic: Center Nikola Vucevic (17.8 PER) had 16 points and 10 rebounds in just 20 minutes, looking very good indeed after missing 12 games with a concussion. This is just about as healthy as the Magic have been all season, but aside from Vucevic and Aaron Afflalo (17.8 PER), none of their players is performing at or above the indexed league average of 15.0 PER. This is one stinky basketball team.
Well, the Heat (32-13 SU, 19-26 ATS) did it to me again. I thought they may have turned the corner in last Sunday’s 113-101 win over the San Antonio Spurs (+3.5 away), but then Miami soiled the bed Wednesday against the Oklahoma City Thunder (+4 away), shooting 3-of-19 from downtown and committing 20 turnovers in an ugly 112-95 affair. Greg Oden (15.3 PER) didn’t play. Michael Beasley (17.2 PER) only played seven minutes. The Heat bench was outscored 39-21. You’re not going to beat the NBA lines like that; Miami is now 1-4 ATS in its last five games and 6-13 ATS since Dec. 23.
Life could be worse. The Celtics (15-33 SU, 22-25-1 ATS) continued their cold streak on Wednesday, losing 95-94 to the Philadelphia 76ers (+4 away) and comfortably sliding UNDER the 203.5-point total. Score another one for the good guys. Boston falls to 0-4 SU and ATS in its last four games and 2-6 ATS since Rondo returned from the injury list, although he sat out Wednesday’s loss as expected. Phil Pressey (7.9 PER) got the start at point guard and had more turnovers (five) than points (two). Mmmm… turnovers.
With all the injuries the Hawks (23-21 SU, 24-20 ATS) are dealing with, it’ll be a cold day in Georgia before they start beating the NBA lines again – what’s that? Polar vortex? Atlanta’s game against the Detroit Pistons was postponed due to the winter storm sweeping the Dirty South, which is too bad, because the Hawks are an intriguing buy-low candidate after both Jeff Teague (16.1 PER) and Pero Antic (12.4 PER) were knocked out of the starting lineup. Atlanta’s reserves nearly upset the Thunder (–10 at home) on Monday, losing 111-109. This is a chance for Gustavo Ayon (14.9 career PER) to remind people he’s a good center, and for Shelvin Mack (15.4 PER) to flash those two-way skills. Once the ice melts, that is.