Take Thunder -3.5 Over Heat for NBA Picks

David Lawrence

Thursday, February 20, 2014 4:08 PM GMT

Most NBA bettors believe that the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder could be the likely matchup we see in the NBA finals later this year. We’ll get a preview of what that might look like on Thursday night when the LeBron James and company pay a visit to Kevin Durant and his crew.

The Heat can win because…

They’ve got revenge on their minds. The Heat blew an 18-point lead the last time these foes squared off and this time, they’ll try to keep their foot on the gas the entire way.

Although the Thunder are getting a ton of national attention, the Heat don’t mind as they’ve been in the spotlight for nearly three years now. They’ve won nine of 11 and are playing fantastic these days. They’re averaging 106.1 points per game over their last 10. And while their road record doesn’t look great overall, they’ve actually picked up the pace of late, winning seven of their last nine on the road. 

The Thunder should get back Russell Westbrook but keep in mind that the team has played with great chemistry over their last 27 games. Getting Westbrook back doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be better; he could throw off their rhythm. He has a tendency to take too many shots and hog the ball a little bit. There could be an adjustment period and the Heat will be able to take advantage.

Take a look at the updated NBA Championship Odds.

The Thunder can win because…

They already have the NBA’s best record and they’ve been playing without Russell Westbrook for the last 27 games. Now he’s made it through a full practice (on Wednesday) and might be back to help the Thunder wreak some more havoc. 

The Thunder have reached a new level these last few weeks without Westbrook as Durant has been playing out of his mind. He’s averaged 35 points per game, 7.5 rebounds and 6.3 assist as the Thunder have won 20 of 27. On top of that, the Thunder have developed a lot of depth in the last year or so that has finally blossomed over this last stretch. Serge Ibaka is averaging new career-highs for points and rebounds while Reggie Jackson and Jeremy Lamb are combining to chip in 23.6 points per game. The Heat are the Big Three but the Thunder have the league’s MVP (right now) and a ton of other weapons to back him up. 

Most importantly, the Thunder are 23-3 at home this season while the Heat are merely 15-10 on the road. That home court advantage should be the main difference as Miami – as evidenced by their loss in Utah last week – is far more vulnerable on the road than at home.

[gameodds]5/256147/?r-1=43-19-349/us[/gameodds]

Outlook & Pick 

The TNT double-header is going to be a dandy tonight, starting with the Heat and Thunder. Miami is in a tough spot here as it’s the final game of their six-game road trip and they might be a little road weary. The Thunder are 4-1 ATS and SU as a home favorite of 3.5 to six points this season and are 16-7 ATS when facing a team with a winning record. Look for them to take care of the two-time defending champs on Thursday while covering the spread.

Pick: Thunder -3.5 at Bookmaker

Read another handicappers take on this matchup here.