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Miami Heat @ Brooklyn Nets
Miami Heat: 110.5 Points, -158 ML, Brooklyn Nets: 107.5 Points, +134 ML
If you want to make a pick quick, you think simply. Find the better team, place wager. Casuals strolling into sportsbooks from California to New York love the road favorite for this reason. Wait, it’s Tom Brady vs. Blake Bortles and I’m only laying 1 point?!? Move over!
However, there is a flip side to the equation. The lifer, that liver in the sportsbooks, with the vizor and the name plack in the special section of the rows, he hears all those publics cheers and hollers when the road favorite scores. He knows what side Joe-Public has, always has – and deep down he resents it. When a public road favorite cruises it all seems so easy over there amongst the laity. The grinder knows it not.
This deep down resentment of the public team, often the road favorite, blinds the lifer to the possibility that this time the better team might also be the right side. If all bookies had to do was make a +1 a -1 to keep every sharp off of a team, that would be some powerful leverage. Although the mantra is to play teams not numbers, it’s foolish to think there’s never value in what appears to be an obvious play.
Jimmy Butler’s Heat
Here we have a not so obvious semi-juggernaut surging. When Jimmy Butler signed with the Miami Heat this summer, Johnny Blog boy and his friends snickered at his hypocrisy. If he wanted to win why didn’t he go to the Lakers???
Well, now he’s winning. Winning isn’t a place you arrive at. It’s a well of purpose that you bring with you. Miami looks like a cinch to cruise past their Season Win Total of 43. While his scoring average (20 per) doesn’t wow you, Butler has fit in seamlessly with one of the most dynamic backcourts in the NBA. Like he did in Chicago, in Minnesota & in Philadelphia, Butler applies pressure to the opposition with physicality and aggression on both ends.
Built like a small forward, Butler can guard almost any position and does his best work in help defense. Butler has expert handle and maneuverability with the ball, especially in the half-court. With under 5 seconds left on the shot clock, Butler is one of the best in the league at creating something. He can always get his shot off himself but doesn’t lessen his passion on both ends when he doesn’t shoot a lot. He doesn’t mind scoring 8 and winning.
The rest of the Heat thrive off Butler’s spirit. As Bam Adebayo continues to improve his playmaking ability, becoming a ball-pushing Draymond Green-style forward, he is making a strong case for the Most Improved Player award. Wiley-vet Goran Dragic, as well as rookie guards Kendrick Nunn and Tyler Herro, are each hitting more than 2 threes per game, making the multiplicity of their attack the envy of the East. Especially if Justice Winslow can come back from injury and regain his form from last year – watch out for this team to make some waves come springtime.
The Kyrie Irving-Less Nets
The Nets have gone a reasonable 12-13 SU & ATS since Irving went down in mid-November with a shoulder injury. Spencer Dinwiddie has kept them afloat with his play-making in Irving’s absence and might be eager to put his stamp on this game before relinquishing the starting gig back to Kyrie.
Angle: I expect the Heat to get their points and get out and run against this Nets team. But like the old bitter handicapper in the back of the sportsbook, I’m wary of laying the points with the road team here. My best pick for this game would be Spencer Dinwiddie Over 22.5 Points, line currently available at FanDuel with slight juice towards the Under. In and up an down game, I wouldn’t be surprised if Dinwiddie got 10 free throws alone before the end of proceedings. At that point, we just need 3 buckets a half to cash. I like our chances.