NBA Handicapping: Miami Heat ATS Funk
by Trevor Whenham - 4/6/2012
The Miami Heat are in a post All-Star Game funk. They have gone just 11-7 in their last 18 games. That’s a record that a lot of teams in the NBA would kill for, but it’s just not good enough for an elite team like the Heat — one that is presumed by many to be the eventual champions this year.
I don’t get the sense that panic is widespread — especially after they beat the Thunder at home on Wednesday night. Still, this is a concerning stretch of games, and one that bettors need to be paying close attention to. Is something wrong with this team? Or are they just bored and waiting for games to really matter? Let’s take a look?:
James needs to lead this team if they are going to do anything. He is certainly doing that. He wouldn’t be my pick, but I believe he is going to be named MVP this year. He’s done everything he needs to, and he has been playing particularly well the last week.
There is really only one thing you need to say — he’s LeBron James.
They can play angry
Wednesday night’s win over Oklahoma City was just the latest example of how well this team can channel anger in positive ways. Before that game they had fired themselves up over the style of play and attitudes of the Thunder. Early in the game Russell Westbrook committed a brutal foul. Some teams get frantic, undisciplined, or unfocused when they get angry. The Heat just got more focused, and they used that anger as fuel to pull out the solid win. Once they got really angry it just seemed like they weren’t going to let themselves lose.
Dwyane Wade has been playing very solid basketball this year, as expected.
What’s more interesting, though, is how the team has played without him. His typical collection of issues has kept him out of 10 games — including nine of 12 back in January. The team is a wildly impressive 9-1 over that time, including a January win over the Lakers.
The Heat get criticized for being top-heavy and built around their Big Three, but this is a clear indication that they have more than that going for them.
The Heat have won 17 straight at home. While that’s impressive, there is an obvious and ugly flipside to that. It means that all seven of their post-All Star Game losses have come on the road.
They are just 3-7 over that stretch. Even worse, they have lost to several potential playoff foes like the Lakers, Magic, Bulls, Thunder, Pacers, and Celtics. If they can’t get motivated and ready to play better against teams like that then the playoffs could be a frustrating affair for them. After all, you can’t win the playoffs if you can’t win on the road. This is a massive concern for this team — and perhaps the biggest reason why I still stand behind my pre-season belief that this team isn’t going to win it all.
The good news is that the team has gone 9-1 without Wade. The bad news, though, is that he has missed 10 games this season.
While they have managed to play well without him in the regular season against generally weaker opponents, I have no faith that they could enjoy the same success in the playoffs without him.
I also don’t have a lot of faith in his durability. His knee is a major liability.
Post all-star funk
The biggest concern about their March slide is just that it happened. There is really no excuse for a team this good to play that poorly over an extended period of time.
You can argue that games don’t really matter for them at this point, and that they can turn it on when it matters. That’s certainly what they seem to think.
I get very nervous when a team is willing to use their ‘on/off switch,’ though. Too often it seems as if they can’t quite turn it on like they think they can when it matters.
I’ll take a team with consistent effort over one that coasts every time.
I won’t dwell too much on this one. If the Thunder are getting lots of attention for the potential liability that Russell Westbrook is, though, then we have to talk about Mario Chalmers.
Chalmers is essentially just a placeholder in the lineup. He doesn’t score in a significant way, he doesn’t create plays in an elite way, and his shooting is fine but not overwhelming. He protects the ball reasonably well, but he doesn’t make a big impact on this team. He’s just sort of there.
When so many of the potential playoff opponents have point guards that are so strong, though, this is a big concern — especially if Wade isn’t at his best.
This is mostly just a complaint from the betting perspective. When it comes to elite teams you want them to perform in one of two ways from a betting angle. You want them to be playing so consistently well that they exceed expectations and still produce big profits despite the public attention they draw. The Spurs, Bulls, and Thunder are three of the four best teams in the league against the spread this year. If that can’t happen then you would like them to perform like the Lakers — unable to match the impossible expectations placed on them by the betting public. The Lakers are the third worst betting team ahead of only Washington and Charlotte. Either one of those options can be nicely profitable if you pick spots to go against them.
The Heat, though, are in a third group — the decidedly average ATS teams. At 26-27 ATS this season you haven’t been able to consistently make money betting on them or against them. That makes it harder to bet on this squad — especially when they lack consistency like they have recently.
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