I have to say, I had an internal debate on which game to pick for this article and my NBA picks. In thinking about it on Wednesday, do I possibly pick the Orlando-Oklahoma City game with the Magic potentially on a 10-game winning streak and with that matchup a possible NBA Finals preview? Or do I go with Miami at Denver, with the Heat possibly poised to get within one game of tying the NBA record for consecutive road wins?
So of course both Orlando and Miami lost on Wednesday night. I flipped a coin, so here’s your Heat-Nuggets preview – which becomes void if by some miracle Carmelo Anthony is traded before you read this.
How the Teams Enter
Well, as mentioned above the Heat were on a 13-game road winning streak and they would have tied the franchise record by simply beating the Clippers on Wednesday night, but Miami got Blake Griffined. The sure-fire NBA Rookie of the Year had 24 points and 14 rebounds in a 111-105 L.A. victory that kept the 1971-72 L.A. Lakers’ NBA record of 16 straight road wins safe. It also ended Miami’s nine-game overall winning streak.
The Nuggets had been lousy of late, presumably because of all the talk of Anthony being traded any minute to New Jersey, but they ended a three-game losing streak on Tuesday with a whopping 132-98 home win over Phoenix. Anthony followed up an eight-point performance Sunday with 28 against the Suns. The 34-point margin of victory was the largest ever for Denver against the Suns in a game where the Nuggets actually trailed by 12 after the first quarter.
Heat at Nuggets Story Lines
Certainly the biggest one is LeBron James, who is questionable for tonight after he sprained his ankle in the loss to the Clippers. James remained in Wednesday’s game after the injury and played to the finish, with follow-up X-rays coming back negative.
Asked afterward whether James would be available tonight, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said, "We have no way of knowing."
James had 27 points in the loss. He was hurt on a drive to the basket midway through the fourth quarter. His momentum carried him out of bounds past the baseline, but he hobbled back onto the court wincing while the Heat still had the ball and sank a three-pointer from the left corner.
This sounds like a whole lot of drama to me, perhaps to deflect attention off the Tweet that LeBron said “wasn’t even from me” about the Cavaliers’ blowout loss to the Lakers on Tuesday.
For what it’s worth, Carmelo beat LeBron’s Cavs last year in Cleveland with a last-second shot over James, so don’t think LeBron doesn’t remember that. He will play.
By the way, entering that Clipper game the Heat were 12-0 when LeBron, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh combined to score at least 71 percent of the team’s points. And against L.A., the Big 3 combined for 84 of the team’s 105 points (80 percent). Obviously that wasn’t enough.
As for Anthony, it really doesn’t appear a trade is that close as now the Knicks and Rockets are back in the mix. So expect him and Chauncey Billups, who has been mentioned in a package going to New Jersey, to both play. But there’s no doubt Anthony will be on the move before February’s trade deadline. Carmelo said he will start tonight guarding James.
If Denver is going to win it will be for two reasons: 1) the altitude and the fact Miami is on the second of a back-to-back; 2) the Nuggets dominate inside, where the Heat’s weakness is. Nuggets big man Nene could be the key. He leads the NBA in shooting percentage by a mile at 62.9 percent. Plus Denver has Kenyon Martin back now as well.
I’ll give you this stat even though I think it’s now irrelevant with the new-look Heat: Miami has lost nine of the past 10 with Denver and eight straight in the Mile High City. The Heat's last four losses in Denver have come by an average margin of 17.8 points.
Heat at Nuggets Odds and Key Trends
Currently Miami is a 2.5-point favorite, according to NBA odds, but this was released at 4.0. Obviously that move can be attributed to both the loss last night and James’ injury. The total has dropped from an open of 205 to 202.5 for the same reasons. Miami is 20-20 ATS this year and 13-8 on the road. Denver is 13-21-3 ATS overall and 7-11-2 at home.
Miami is 7-2 straight up in the second of back-to-backs this year and 4-1 ATS in the past five.
Denver is 4-0 ATS in its past four as a home dog.
The ‘over’ is 4-0 in Miami’s past four.
The Heat are 0-4 ATS in the past four in Denver.
Heat at Nuggets NBA Picks for Thursday TNT
Take Denver and the points. I think the Nuggets win straight up. Maybe LeBron isn’t 100 percent – or by some miracle doesn’t play. Plus, Miami will no doubt be deflated and it’s never easy to adjust to playing in Denver, especially on the second night of a back-to-back. I love the ‘over’ as well as Miami’s defense will be showing some cracks.
Doc’s Sports NBA is on fire. We are on a 10-2 overall run with 14 of 20 winning nights and we hit our seventh straight Game of the Week on Wednesday as we picked the Clippers against the Heat. We will have a full card of NBA picks for Friday, including our 6-Unit NBA Game of the Month (7-2 Top Play run).