A Finals rematch highlights Saturday’s slate of games, but even outside the home of the defending world champs, we get the benefit of five matchups that should be close.
The Heat have officially entered deceiving territory.
On paper, they’re firmly in the grouping of the bottom quarter of NBA teams. Their 23rd ranked net rating for the season, minus 3.3, is a healthy distance away from the 22nd ranked Mavs (minus 1.6) and is instead much closer to the 24th ranked, 8-20 Detroit Pistons (minus 3.7). They’re also the second worst team against the spread, checking into this game at just 10-18-1.
But upon closer inspection, things may be starting to turn around. Over the last two weeks, they’re outpacing their spreads by an average of 1.5 points per game. They also have a borderline top-10 net rating over that span, including a top-five defense. Most importantly, their marauding, do everything wing, Jimmy Butler, appears back to his Finals form.
Butler has averaged nearly a triple double over his last seven games, and since he returned from a two-and-a-half-week absence, the Heat are 6-5. That stretch includes tight road losses to the Clippers and Warriors though, and an 18-point defeat at the hands of Utah, which is nothing to be ashamed of.
In the Lakers, Miami will find a team that has hit its first rough patch of the season. They’ve failed to cover five of their last seven games, and lost two of three outright. This downturn has coincided with the loss of Anthony Davis, who has only played one fully healthy game in the last two weeks (one of the two Laker covers) and will be out for the next month. Their offense over those 14 days has slipped to 24th in the league according to Cleaning the Glass. Making matters even more difficult, Dennis Schroeder will miss this game due to health and safety protocols.
It would be easier to take LA if this were a pick’em or even a one possession difference, but given the size of the margin betters are getting, Miami has to be the choice.
The Pick: Miami + 3.5 @ -109
Steph Curry, three-time MVP?
The murmurings are out there, and even though he’s a fringe candidate right now, the numbers he’s putting up have to be taken seriously.
Curry is in the midst of one of the best months of his sterling career, averaging 35 points on 55/45/95 splits in February. Golden State is only 6-5 in those games, and four of their losses have come by a total of 15 points, including Friday’s four-point defeat at the hands of the Magic. Meanwhile, they’ve had two wins by 31 and another by 23. When Steph gets hot, its game over.
Oh, and guess where this game is being played? That’s right: the place Steph’s dad used to call home, and where Curry has always thrived. Steph’s points per game average and true shooting percentage against his dad’s old franchise both rank fourth out of the 29 NBA teams Curry has played.
One wild card: the Hornets haven’t played in nearly a week due to game postponements, while the Warriors will be playing the second night of a back to back. Will rust matter more than fatigue? When in doubt, don’t go against Curry.
The Pick: Golden State -2 @ -110
Sacramento’s losing streak – both in actual games and for betters – is up to five. They’ve gotten back to their blasé defensive ways, ranking 26th in the NBA over the last two weeks after a momentary departure from their cellar-dwelling yearlong position.
In Chicago, they get one of the better teams against the spread this season. The Bulls have covered 16 times in 27 games, even if they only have a dozen victories to show for it. Zach LaVine has also been making an All-Star push lately, averaging 35.5 points while shooting an unreal 58 percent from deep over his last six games.
In Sacramento, he’ll be getting access to the full buffet with no one on line ahead of him.
The Pick: Chicago +2.5 @ -109
After a stretch of nine wins (and covers) in 10 games, the Suns dropped a tight one to Brooklyn on Tuesday night, but headed into Friday night as the second hottest team in the league with a plus 8.8 net rating over the last two weeks. They handily beat the Pels 132-114, showing they’ve picked up right where they left off before the Nets game.
Now, on the second night of a back to back, they get a Memphis squad also playing its second game in two nights after they beat up on Detroit, 109-95. The Grizzlies had been scuffling quite a bit though, ranking just 20th in net rating over that same two-week span, and specifically struggling to stop opponents, who had put up over 125 points per 100 possessions against them in the last 14 days coming into Friday night.
They’ll be overmatched for this one.
The Pick: Phoenix -4 @ -110
Guess who’s suddenly hot?
Bradley Beal is still a Wizard, and they’ve now won and covered three games in a row. Their offense has scored at least 130 points in the last two of those victories, and they now face a Portland squad with the 28th ranked defense this season.
The Blazers are feisty at home with an 8-5 record in Oregon, but they’re just 5-8 in those games against the spread. This one should be a track meet, meaning whoever gets the points is the safer bet.
The Pick: Washington +3.5 @ -109
NBA Expert Picks
(Click Odds To Bet)
Miami + 3.5 @ -109 (Click To Bet)
Golden State -2 @ -110 (Click To Bet)
Chicago +2.5 @ -109 (Click To Bet)
Phoenix -4 @ -110 (Click To Bet)
Washington +3.5 @ -109 (Click To Bet)
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