NBA Picks: Take 'Under' When Thunder Strikes Over Injured Heat

Jay Pryce

Sunday, January 17, 2016 2:04 PM UTC

Sunday, Jan. 17, 2016 2:04 PM UTC

The injury-riddled Heat visit Oklahoma City Sunday to take on the Thunder. Coach Billy Donovan's defense is growing stronger, but who will be our NBA pick?

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Free NBA Pick: Under 200
Best Line Offered: at Heritage


Miami Heat (23-17 SU, 20-20 ATS)
The Heat wrap up phase one of a grueling January schedule against the Thunder in Oklahoma on Sunday. It's their sixth away game in a row. A home stop against the Bucks on Tuesday, and Miami hit the road for another five-game trip. Whew.

Miami have won just two games in its last six with two of their big-three ailing with injuries. Center Hassan Whiteside, who's knee tendonitis has caused him to miss a couple contests recently, returned in a big way on Friday, posting a triple-double (19 points, 17 rebounds, and 11 blocks) in the Heat's 98-95 victory over the Nuggets. Dwayne Wade has bravely played through pain in both shoulders and is questionable for the matchup. Goran Dragic (calf), Josh McRoberts (knee), and Chris Andersen (knee) are likely out as well.

With Wade and many of the Heat role players hurt,Whiteside and Chris Bosh will have to play bigger than expected. The seven-foot center has had so-so success defensively with six blocks in 63 minutes against the Thunder. As the nearest defender, he's allowed Kevin Durant and company to shoot 53 percent from the field. Bosh, meanwhile, averages 47 percent shooting against OKC's current roster. 


Oklahoma City Thunder (29-12 SU, 17-24 ATS)
Oklahoma City is 18-4 SU in its last 22 games winning by a margin of nearly 11 points per contest. The market is tight on the number during this stretch with an -9.5 average line, leaving the Thunder just 10-12 ATS. Former Florida coach Billy Donovan is impressing his defensive-minded ways on the team, yielding 98.8 points per game to opponents as opposed to 103 prior.

Like Miami, OKC rolls out a big-three lineup with Durant, Russell Westbrook, and Enes Kanter the foundation for the team. Unlike the Heat, though, the Thunder triumvirate is healthy and rolling. 

For the Thunder to cover the number, a lot hinges on how well Durant shoots. For the season, he has a 51.7 percent field goal percentage, 13th best in the NBA and tops among all small forwards. When he nets 55 percent on the night, OKC is 9-4 ATS versus 1-8 ATS when held to 45 percent or lower. For totals bettors, when held south of 50 percent, the UNDER is 21-12-1. 

The Heat's current roster has limited Durant in the past, allowing the former MVP a below-average 42 percent from the field. Luol Deng has been particularly effective, holding him to 7 for 21 from the field.

OKC is guilty of lying down against some poorer teams this year. When playing a squad with a winning percentage 20 points lower, they are 6-12 ATS with an average closing line of -11.5, losing against the number in seven of its last eight.


Final Analysis
Oddsmakers have yet to set a line with the status of Wade uncertain. The spread may approach double digits on the NBA odds boards if he sits, a number too high for me to comfortably lay. The NBA pick here may be the UNDER with Donovan's team tightening up defensively against stronger foes.

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