Miami opened as a 3-point favorite on NBA odds when they face the the Brooklyn Nets, despite the fact that the Heat will be playing their second game in less than 24 hours.
Brooklyn (16-16) hasn't been above .500 since Nov. 12 but can get back above breakeven with a win here. The Nets are definitely playing their best ball of the season, having won three straight and six of seven. True, only one of those wins was over a team with a winning record (Chicago) but you can only play the schedule given.
On Friday, the Nets won their third straight on the road, 100-98 in Orlando. Brooklyn nearly let up too early, almost blowing a 26-point second-half lead. Mason Plumlee had 18 points and nine rebounds for the Nets, and he might be the team's best player right now. An injury to Brook Lopez really increased Plumlee's minutes and that hasn't changed much even with Lopez back now. Plumlee is averaging 16.7 points and 9.2 rebounds in his past 10 games. Lopez came off the bench again Friday, as did point guard Deron Williams because Jarrett Jack has been so good as a starter. Although Williams (16 points seven rebounds) outplayed Jack (six points, four assists) against the Magic. Still, that successful seven-game run has all been with Jack and Sergei Karasev as the starting guards and Joe Johnson playing small forward.
The Nets are 9-7 against the spread on the road this season and 5-11 'over/under' on NBA betting odds.
The Heat entered Saturday's tough game at Houston having lost three straight games. Chris Bosh returned from an eight-game injury absence for Monday's 102-101 home loss to Orlando and had 20 points and eight rebounds in 33 minutes. He played 38 minutes in Wednesday's 106-95 loss at Indiana and had 18 points and eight rebounds. So he looks sound.
Miami coach Erik Spoelstra has had a handful of different starting lineups this season but says he will go with a quintet of Mario Chalmers and Dwyane Wade in the backcourt, Luol Deng at small forward, Chris Andersen at power forward and Bosh at center going forward. At least for now. Andersen has been limited to only 20 games because of injuries.
The Heat had two big offseason additions. Josh McRoberts flopped and is now out for the season due to injury. The other, Danny Granger, is starting to really contribute. He is getting more minutes and proving deserving as he is averaging 17.7 points in the past three entering Saturday. At times Spoelstra has Granger on the floor with Deng even though both are small forwards. In those scenarios, Deng plays more of a stretch four role.
The Heat are 6-11-1 against the NBA betting spread at home this season and 10-8 'over/under.' Miami has lost its past two in the second of a back-to-back: 105-87 at home to Utah on Dec. 17 and 102-82 at Denver on Dec. 10. The Heat won the first game of the back-to-back in both occasions.
Before deciding on this NBA pick, remember that the last time Brooklyn played a game at Miami was Game 5 of last season's Eastern Conference semifinals, in which the Heat closed things out with a 96-94 victory. Neither team is nearly as good as it was in May. Of course the Heat don't have LeBron James and the Nets are just .... older. Plus they don't have Paul Pierce or Shaun Livingston.
Brooklyn is 0-2 against the Heat this season, losing both at home. On Nov. 17, the Nets were 8-point favorites on NBA odds and lost 95-83, part of a season-high five-game losing streak. Wade and Deng both missed the game with injuries. Chalmers led the Heat with 22 points and Bosh had 15. Bojan Bogdanovic scored 22 points for the Nets. On Dec. 16, the Nets were -6 at sportsbooks and lost 95-91 to start a three-game losing streak. Wade was questionable with a stomach bug but did play and had 28 points, five rebounds and four assists. Bosh sat out. Brooklyn had rallied from a 13-point hole to trail 93-91 and Wade missed a 3-pointer with 12 seconds left. However, Bogdanovic was called for a loose ball foul on Deng, who made two free throws to all but clinch it. Plumlee led Brooklyn with 21 points and nine boards, while Williams had 15 points and 11 assists. Lopez was out injured. Bettors may remember that game for an unusual weather delay. It was delayed for 29 minutes in the first quarter when the installation of a new roof at Barclays Center led to a water leak.
NBA Betting Verdict
The Heat have failed to cover their past four in the second of a back-to-back. Brooklyn has covered nine of its past 12 vs. teams with a losing record. The road team has covered the past four meetings. The 'over' is 4-1 in the Nets' past five overall.
NBA Free Picks: Nets -2.5 and 'over' 193 points at 5Dimes