This NBA handicapper expects inter-conference dominance to be a strong factor in toninght's matchup between Miami Heat and Phoenix Suns. Find out what his recommended bet is.
Miami Heat vs. Phoenix Suns (-4-) 9:05 ET
A look at the NBA standings sees that each of these teams is hanging on to a final playoff spot in their respective conferences, if post-season play were to begin today. But, West vs. East matchups has clearly favored the stronger western teams. In all games matching West vs. East this year, the West is an amazing 77-37 SU. Expect that inter-conference dominance to be a factor tonight. While each of these teams is .500 or worse against their own conference, Miami is just 2-4 SU against the West, while Phoenix is 6-3 SU against the East.
Phoenix was the NBA’s most improved team last season. Projected to vie for the No. 1 lottery pick, the Suns responded with a 48-34 SU season, missing the playoffs by a single game. That provided much hunger to this team entering the current season. This year, the Suns added Isaiah Thomas to an already potent backcourt led by Eric Bledsoe. Last night, in the Suns’ 121-120 OT loss at the LA Clippers, Bledsoe scored 27 points, added 11 rebounds and 16 assists vs. his former team. Thomas, who has recently missed 7 games with an ankle injury, is probable to make his return tonight. His 16 PPG and 4.1 APG will be welcomed. It is tough to believe this but Phoenix will be stepping down in class for this home encounter with the perennial Eastern conference champs. Phoenix returns home following a tough 3 game road swing against the best teams in the west. After upsetting Dallas 118-106 Friday night, they lost a narrow 5 point decision at Houston followed by last night’s 121-120 loss at LAC. But with Miami coming to town, a team who has dominated them in recent seasons, the Suns will rise to the occasion.
The departure of LeBron James has been clearly a negative for Miami. In the previous 2 seasons, Miami went 66-16 SU in the regular 2012-13 season and won the NBA title. Last year, though the record dipped to 58-28 SU in the regular season, the Heat were still good enough to make it to the NBA Finals, before losing to the Spurs. Without James, the Heat has clearly struggled. Some of their issues have been attributed to the absence from the lineup of often injured, Dwayne Wade. But since the return of Wade from a hamstring injury, he has averaged 26 PPG on 58% shooting. Yet, Miami enters on a 4-game losing streak in which they have been outscored by an average of 108-90. To blame is a defense that has allowed 56% from the field, including 53% from the arc. In their previous 3 roles as road dog, Miami has lost 103-87 at Memphis, 109-85 at Milwaukee and 107-86 at Washington. Keep in mind when making your NBA pick, Phoenix is better than either of those last two teams.
Unless the Heat find a way to improve their declining defense, this figures to be a tough matchup against the Phoenix team who averages 106 PPG.
Free NBA Pick: Phoenix at BetOnline