Jason’s record on his early NBA picks for 2013-14, up to April 10 inclusive:
We’ve arrived at the most important point of the regular season. The Indiana Pacers (54-25 SU, 36-42-1 ATS) are in first place in the Eastern Conference, a half-game up on the Miami Heat (53-25 SU, 36-40-2 ATS), although the Heat have a game in hand. They’ll also have home-court advantage when they host the Pacers Friday night (7:30 p.m. ET, NBA-TV). Do you have NBA-TV yet? Do you still have cable?
Miami has opened as a 7-point chalk on Friday’s NBA betting lines, but only a very small handful of online sportsbooks are doing business on this matchup as we go to press. You can understand their reticence. Who’s going to play for the Pacers on Friday? What about the Heat? It’s a riddle wrapped in a soft tortilla enigma, sprinkled with mystery cheese.
Children of the Corn
Presumably the Pacers (who hold the tiebreaker with Miami, by the way) will go with their usual starting five, after head coach Frank Vogel took an epic gamble and gave all of them Wednesday night off against the Milwaukee Bucks. The first part of the plan worked, although just barely – Indiana won 104-102 as a 1-point road fave. Luis Scola (13.2 PER) and Evan Turner (9.7 PER) combined for 57 points. Even Chris Copeland (17.3 PER) got to play 17 minutes off the bench, scoring 18 points on 7-of-8 shooting and making the winning basket with 1.2 seconds remaining. You’re welcome.
Sadly, we’re likely to see Copeland disappear again, while Scola and Turner should continue to play meaningful reserve minutes against Miami. That’s not likely to be a profitable formula. When these two teams met on March 26, Scola and Turner combined for eight points in an 84-83 victory over the Heat, and Miami got paid as a 2-point road dog.
At least Vogel managed to get away with giving his starters some much-needed rest. The same five players were given Monday and Tuesday off before the Milwaukee game, and Vogel was very pleased with how much energy they showed during Thursday’s practice. So were the players. “It’s the most time off we’ve had in a while, and our bodies are benefiting from it right now,” Paul George (20.2 PER) told ESPN’s Brian Windhorst. “We were flying up and down this floor. Hopefully that’s a foreshadowing for the game.”
So will the Heat have their full roster available on Friday, like they did back in March? Dwyane Wade (22.0 PER) has missed the last eight games with a sore hamstring, and he’s expected to be a game-time decision against Indiana. Chris Andersen (18.9 PER) and Udonis Haslem (9.9 PER) both missed Wednesday’s 107-102 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies (–4.5 at home); Andersen is day-to-day with knee and back issues, while Haslem is coming off a stomach virus.
The Heat can’t risk pushing any three of these players too hard before the postseason. Greg Oden (12.9 PER) hasn’t played since that last Pacers game because of back spasms, so Haslem’s been much busier lately, as have Rashard Lewis (11.1 PER) and even center Justin Hamilton (18.0 PER), who was signed off the street on March 14 after getting a cup of coffee with the Charlotte Bobcats.
When I run into a situation like this where the lineup is sufficiently uncertain, I often find myself considering the NBA totals. Friday’s game has a 207.5-point total up on the board; that seems a bit large considering neither team scored 100 points on the other during their past seven meetings, stretching back into last year’s Eastern Conference Finals. I’ll take it.
NBA Pick: Take UNDER 207.5 at Heritage