Jason’s record on his early NBA picks for 2013-14, up to January 28 inclusive:
This just in: Kevin Durant is awesome. He scored another 41 points for the Oklahoma City Thunder (36-10 SU, 27-19 ATS) on Monday night – that’s the fifth time this month that Durant has topped the 40-point mark. Not bad. But something else noteworthy happened on Monday: The Thunder didn’t beat the NBA odds. They did beat the Atlanta Hawks 111-109, but Atlanta covered as a 10-point road dog, ending Oklahoma City’s ATS streak at seven games.
Meanwhile, strange things were also afoot with the reigning NBA champions. The Miami Heat (32-12 SU, 19-25 ATS) brought a new look to the floor in Sunday’s tilt against the San Antonio Spurs. Dwyane Wade returned from a four-game absence, but he came in as a reserve for the first time in over six years, scoring eight points in 24 minutes as Miami (–3.5 at home) drilled the Spurs 113-101. It was the first Heat cover in four games and just the third in their last nine. Interesting.
That’s the set-up for Wednesday’s potential 2014 NBA Finals preview (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN) at the Triple A. Miami was a 4-point favorite on the opening basketball lines, then inched up to –4.5 at select online sportsbooks. Some of those books have since brought the Heat back down to –4; we should have some consensus data for you by the time you read this, but there are indications that the Thunder were getting the early action. Same for the OVER on the total of 204 points.
Just a few days ago, it would have been simple enough to bet the Thunder given January’s ATS performance by both teams. We probably shouldn’t abandon OKC just because of one game – you can’t win them all. But Miami’s thrown a new wrinkle at us that we have to take into consideration. Wade (21.6 PER) is expected to be in the starting lineup for Wednesday’s game after making what he called a “cameo” appearance against the Hawks; however, that’s not the wrinkle I’m talking about.
What Has Seven Feet and Jams?
Ladies and gentlemen, Greg Oden is back. The former No. 1 overall pick played 13 minutes in Sunday’s win over San Antonio, and he opened some eyes with a powerful slam-dunk that left Tim Duncan on his tuckus. Oden also made life difficult at the other end of the floor, where Duncan missed two shots and turned the ball over while Oden was on him.
It’s only a small sample size of 42 minutes for Oden this year, but look at those numbers: 17 points, 10 rebounds (seven of those on the offensive glass), three blocks, and a 15.3 PER. That’s pretty good for somebody who missed the past three seasons with bad knees. And while it’s highly unlikely that Oden will be playing 42 minutes against the Thunder, he’s been making a big impact when he does play, and he’s only getting better.
Sunday also saw Michael Beasley (17.2 PER) make an impact for the third game in a row after a very quiet couple of weeks, scoring 12 points in 20 minutes against the Spurs. And with both Mario Chalmers (15.0 PER) and Shane Battier (9.5 PER) back in action after missing time earlier this month, that means Miami has its full complement of players – including Oden – for the first time all season.
Uh-oh. This is exactly the scenario everyone feared when the Heat added Oden and Beasley during the offseason. The defending champs be highly motivated to beat the Thunder on national television, and don’t forget, OKC is still without PG Russell Westbrook (21.5 PER). Oh yeah, there’s that MVP battle, too. What was his name again? James Somebody?NBA Pick: Take the Heat –4 (–103) at Pinnacle