NBA Picks: Trail Blazers To Cool Off And Feel The Heat

Jay Pryce

Saturday, April 2, 2016 1:31 PM GMT

The Trail Blazers and Heat meet for the second time this season on Saturday night, where Portland is streaking. Can Miami cool off Damian Lillard and company? Check our NBA Pick inside.

Miami Heat (44-31 SU, 38-36-1 ATS)
The Heat powered past the Kings 112-106 last night without star Dwyane Wade, who sat out with a neck injury. He's unlikely to suit up in Portland, too. Battling through a host of injuries all seasons, the 12-time All Star has miraculously failed to log at least one minute of play in only seven games this year. Surprisingly, his absence hasn't meant too much to the scoreline since LeBron James departed home to Cleveland. Since 2014, in 27 games Wade has missed, Miami owns a -1.96-point average margin of victory versus -0.38 when in the lineup. In 2015, there is no difference. The Heat are 1.5 points to the good either way in the NBA odds boards.

Miami's offense is on fire. It has posted 100 points or more in 20 of its last 22 games. Prior to this, the team hit the century mark just 19 times. The Heat are not playing much quicker—heck, they're one of the slowest teams in the league—but are just that much more effective. Prior to February 8, they ranked 26th in the NBA in offensive efficiency, climbing to 15th in less than two months.

The Heat possess a tough defense, and make every team work hard to find a good look. Their 0.55 assist-to-field-goals made mark is third best in the league. But they will let teams fire away from behind the arc. Their 21.7 trey attempts and 7.5 yielded per game rank fourth and third most respectively. As a result, they've struggled a bit on the road against opponents who rely on the three like Portland, who puts up (28.6) and drains (10.5) the fifth-most per contest. Miami is just 2-5 SU and 3-4 ATS in the NBA away from home against teams averaging 9.5 treys per game or more on the year.

 

Portland Trail Blazers (40-36 SU, 42-33-1 ATS)
Portland's 116-109 triumph over the Celtics Friday night made it six victories in a row at Moda Center. In fact, it is 17-3 SU (13-6-1 ATS) over their last 20 at home, trailing only the Spurs, Warriors, and Raptors for most site wins during this stretch. With six games to go, coach Terry Stotts' squad currently hold the No. 6 seed in the West with a 2.5-game advantage over the final spot. Barring a collapse, the postseason is in their grasps. Four of their final six games, including tonight's, are penciled in at Portland.

The Trail Blazers success starts and stops with the backcourt trio of PG Damian Lillard (25.2 ppg), SG C.J. McCollum (20.7 ppg) and SG Allen Crabbe's (10.3 ppg), their three top scorers. When the trio scores above their combined average (56) in a game, the team is 20-9 ATS, putting up 111.1 points per game. Portland's surpassed its team total projection in 25 of the 29, pushing the 'over' game total to a record of 24-4-1. Scoring below their combined average, the team is 17-21 ATS with a 100.8 scoring mark per contest. The 'under' is 26-12 and they've failed to hit their team total in 23 games. The three put up 60 altogether in this season's only meeting against the Heat in Miami, losing 116-109 behind Chris Bosh's 29 points, outscored by 17 in the second half.

Can bettors expect another big night from Portland's backcourt? Maybe. The Trail Blazers are at their best on their own hardwood against teams who have a poor assist-to-turnover ratio. When hosting a defense with a rate of 1.5 or higher, they are 19-4 SU and 16-7 ATS, scoring 109.5 points a night with roughly 13 giveaways. Versus units owning a lesser mark, they are 6-8 SU and ATS, posting 104.9 points per game with close to 15 turnovers. Despite holding teams to 98.2 points per game, fourth best in the NBA, Miami fails to generate many takeaways. When Portland's backcourt isn't hassled and allowed to creatively generate chances, the team is at its best.

 

Final Analysis
Regardless of their low forced turnover margin, the Heat are the best in the NBA at defending guards, holding the position to a lowly 40.4 shooting percentage on the season. Center Hassan Whiteside, the league leader in blocks, is one of the best paint protectors in the game, making it tough for backcourt players looking to penetrate the rim.

Miami is playing on tired legs, though, with its fourth game in five days. Still, we like the points here. We'll sit patiently and see which way the line movement will go, and take as many as we can nearer to tip-off. Miami ATS is the NBA pick of the play.

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Free NBA Pick: Miami Heat +6 (-105)
Best Line Offered: at Heritage