Yes, I know you probably could care less about the NBA doubleheader tonight – I’m really not sure why the Association doesn’t take the night off to cede the basketball spotlight to March Madness. But there are also some dedicated NBA bettors out there and Doc’s aims to please, so here’s a look at the only two games on the NBA schedule tonight.
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Orlando Magic at Miami Heat, 8 p.m.
The line: Magic -2.5 (187.5)
How they enter: Orlando has pretty clearly established itself as the East’s second-best team, having won nine of 10 games, including a 26-point rout of what had been a hot San Antonio team on Wednesday night (that officially clinched a playoff spot for Orlando). The Heat’s three-game winning streak was ended by those same Spurs on Tuesday night in South Florida.
Scouting report: As of today, this would be a first-round playoff matchup. And the Heat have given the Magic fits, having won two of three meetings so far. Miami hasn’t won the season series in five years. Dwyane Wade is averaging 30.0 points per game against the Magic, which is best average against any team this season. It’s not clear if Heat forward Michael Beasley can play heavy minutes tonight. He returned from a thigh injury against the Spurs on Tuesday but managed only 19 minutes. He is the Heat’s second-leading scorer. The Magic got an encouraging sign on Wednesday night when Rashard Lewis scored 20 points. He had scored less than 10 points in four of Orlando's previous six games. Orlando won’t be winning the East if Lewis isn’t playing well. Magic center Dwight Howard had arguably his worst game of the season in the last meeting with Miami with seven points and five rebounds as he was in foul trouble. Yet Orlando won, 96-80, on Feb. 28.
Key trends: Orlando has won three road games in a row and six of its past eight at Miami.
The Magic have held eight of the past nine foes to 100 points or less, and 10 of the past 13 Magic games have gone ‘under’. Miami has allowed less than 100 points in six straight.
The Heat are 5-1 ATS in their past six at home.
The pick: Normally I would take the home team against the visitor that is coming off a game the night before. But Orlando didn’t have to exert much effort in the second half Wednesday. Take Orlando and the ‘under’.
New Orleans Hornets at Denver Nuggets, 10:30 p.m.
The line: Nuggets -14.5 (215)
How they enter: The Hornets have lost four of five, including a shootout loss in Golden State on Wednesday night in which they blew a 21-point lead. The second of a back-to-back in the thin air of Denver is never a good thing. The Nuggets have won seven of eight, including a 10-point home win over the Wizards on Tuesday.
Scouting report: New Orleans is close to getting star point guard Chris Paul back, but it won’t be tonight. Rookie Darren Collison has been tremendous in Paul’s place, averaging 19.5 points, 10 assists and 1.7 steals per game as a starter. He was the Western Conference Rookie of the Month for February. But New Orleans has lost eight of nine on the road and 10 of 13 overall. The Nuggets are 2-1 (1-2 ATS) against New Orleans this season. Denver won, 116-10, in overtime at home on Jan. 23 and won, 102-195, at New Orleans last Friday. Carmelo Anthony had 32 points and 12 boards in that recent meeting. Hornets swingman James Posey will sit tonight with flu-like symptoms. The Nuggets remain without forward Kenyon Martin, possibly for the rest of the regular season. Key reserve Chris Andersen will be a game-time decision tonight with a sprained ankle.
Key trends: The Hornets are just 1-7 ATS in their past eight.
Denver is 10-2-1 ATS in its past 13 but just 4-6 ATS in its past 10 at home.
The pick: New Orleans is 8-5 ATS in the second of back-to-backs this year, and I believe the Hornets cover here but still lose by about 10. They haven’t won in Denver in their past six. The ‘over’ is 5-1 in the past six in Denver, so go that route.