LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS (3-2) at MIAMI HEAT (3-2)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Miami -6
The Clippers look to bounce back from an embarrassing loss to the Magic when they visit the defending champion Heat on Thursday night.
L.A. was down big to 7-point home underdog Orlando on Wednesday night and came all the way back to take the lead before eventually losing 98-90. Miami last played on Tuesday when it won and covered with a 104-95 win at Toronto without PF Chris Bosh, who missed the game due to the birth of his child, but should play Thursday. Last season, these teams split their two games with each team winning at home. The Heat trounced Los Angeles 111-89 on Feb. 8 with a blistering 53% FG clip. That makes Miami is 11-4 SU against the Clippers at home since 1996, but just 6-7-2 ATS. Los Angeles is 2-1 SU and ATS versus Miami over the last three seasons. In those 15 meetings at AmericanAirlines Arena, the Over is 11-3-1 (79%). Los Angeles may not be at a big disadvantage playing in South Beach though, as the Heat are 5-15 ATS in home games after playing a road game over the past two seasons. However, Miami is 38-23 ATS during that time span when playing as a favorite of 3.5 to 9.5 points. The Clippers could be missing SF Matt Barnes due to a thigh injury.
In Wednesday’s loss, Clippers PG Chris Paul had 18 points and 10 assists, but he eventually fouled out of the game. Paul is averaging 24.8 PPG (49.4% FG), 12.6 APG, 4.0 RPG and 3.0 SPG so far this season. He did, however, struggle against Miami last season averaging just 9.5 PPG (4-for-14 FG) and 6.0 APG in the two meetings. PF Blake Griffin struggled in the road game against Miami last season, scoring just 13 points with five rebounds and four turnovers, but was dominant in Los Angeles against the Heat with 20 points, 14 rebounds, six assists and two blocks. The Clippers will need both of their star players to perform at the top of their games if they are going to come away with a road win against the champs. SG J.J Redick will also need to keep up his lights-out shooting. Through five games, Redick has looked like a great off-season acquisition averaging 17.2 PPG (49% FG, 36% 3-pt FG) in 30.0 MPG. Los Angeles will need to lock down on defense though. Although the Clippers are the league’s highest scoring team with 113.2 PPG, they have also allowed the most points in the NBA at 109.6 PPG. That type of porous defense will not work against LeBron James and company.
The Heat opened the season 1-2, but have since won two straight with the last being a 104-95 victory over the Raptors. SF LeBron James was dominant in the game with 35 points, eight rebounds and eight assists. James had great success against the Clippers last season too, as he averaged 30.0 PPG on 62% FG with 6.5 APG, 5.0 RPG and 2.0 BPG in two meetings. The Heat are going to need PF Chris Bosh to be ready to play after missing Wednesday’s game for the birth of his child. Bosh has been fantastic this season, averaging 19.8 PPG (59% FG, 6-of-10 threes), 6.8 RPG and 1.5 BPG in four games. Bosh will be tasked with defending the paint against a very good frontcourt that features Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. Since struggling the first game of the season, SG Dwyane Wade has come on strong for Miami. He has scored 20+ points in three straight contests and has always enjoyed facing the Clippers with 25.1 PPG, 7.0 APG and 4.8 RPG over 15 career meetings. Wade’s defense on J.J. Redick will be crucial if the Heat are going to win comfortably. The Heat must continue to move the ball well as they are the NBA’s best passing team with 28.6 APG and rank fifth in the league with a 1.68 assist-to-turnover ratio.
LOS ANGELES LAKERS (2-3) at HOUSTON ROCKETS (4-1)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Houston -13
The Lakers and coach Mike D’Antoni continue to experiment with their lineup as they visit the red-hot Rockets and former teammate Dwight Howard on Thursday night.
Los Angeles has had an up-and-down season as they work on an 11-man rotation where the bench is actually averaging more minutes than the starters. The 11 players in the rotation are all averaging more than 13 MPG apiece. L.A. is coming off of a 123-104 loss against the Mavericks on Tuesday night where SF Nick Young (21 points) was the beneficiary coming off the bench. The Rockets have been on a tear as of late, winning four of their first five games (3-1-1 ATS), with their only loss coming on the road against the Clippers. In their most recent game, the Rockets took down the up-and-coming Trail Blazers in Portland, 116-101. The two franchises have had a long history, with the Lakers going 132-68 SU over that time. They have split their past 10 matchups 5-5 SU, with Houston holding a 7-3 ATS advantage. The Over has gone 8-2 in those games, with the average score being the Lakers 107.9 and the Rockets 107.8. SG Kobe Bryant will once again be out for this game while recovering from his torn Achilles.
The Lakers have done better than expected this season with what they are bringing to the table, and have averaged 100.8 PPG despite shooting only 41.7% from the floor. They have also been a poor rebounding team with a minus-3.0 RPG margin. With so many players vying for a spot in the starting rotation, each player is getting a chance to make a name for himself. But Los Angeles is giving up an enormous 109.0 PPG on 47.9% FG this season and has surrendered more than 120 points twice in the first five games. The leader on the team has turned from injured SG Kobe Bryant to PF Pau Gasol (14.6 PPG, 10.4 RPG). He has three double-doubles this season, and is coming off a game where he played his most minutes (31), but put up only 10 points and four rebounds. Gasol has averaged 19.0 PPG (50% FG) and 8.8 RPG in 38 career games against Houston. SG Xavier Henry (12.4 PPG, 39% FG) has emerged as the main beneficiary from the 11-man rotation, but has been inconsistent with his scoring with outputs of 22, 13, 3, 18 and 5 points this season. PG Steve Nash (6.5 PPG, 5.0 APG) has been a shell of his former self, but has averaged 14.9 PPG (50% FG) and 8.4 APG in his 55 career games (50 starts) against the Rockets, including 16 points, 10 assists and five rebounds in his one game against them last season.
Houston has posted an impressive 109.4 PPG (4th in NBA) on 49.9% FG (3rd in league), but is making just 34.1% of its three-pointers. The Rockets have scored at least 104 points in four straight games, and have tallied 113+ points three times. On defense, the addition of C Dwight Howard has led the Rockets to a league-leading +10.2 rebounding margin on the season, but they are still allowing 103.8 PPG (23rd in NBA) to their opposition. SG James Harden (25.2 PPG, 4.2 APG, 4.0 RPG) has benefitted from his trade to Houston by becoming one of the top players in the NBA. Harden is coming off a 33-point, seven-rebound performance in a winning effort against Portland on Tuesday night. In four games against the Lakers last season, Harden shot poorly (35.8% FG, 28.6% threes), but still averaged 24.0 PPG, 6.5 RPG and 6.3 APG. C Dwight Howard (17.4 PPG, 14.6 RPG, 1.4 BPG) has seemed rejuvenated in Houston with 13+ points and 9+ rebounds in each of his games. Howard has scored 17.5 PPG (59% FG) with 12.0 RPG in 15 career games against his former team. PG Jeremy Lin (15.2 PPG, 4.4 APG) slid into the starting role while PG Patrick Beverley (ribs) was out, and scored 10.0 PPG (34.1% FG) while dishing out 6.5 APG in four games last season against the Lakers. Beverley returned to the court on Tuesday with 12 points (5-of-9 FG) and four rebounds in 29 minutes, and he is expected to share point-guard duties with Lin moving forward.