NBA Playoffs Odds and Picks: Knicks vs. Heat Series Predictions
by Alan Matthews - 4/27/2012
There are some very nice first-round NBA Playoff matchups. The Dallas Mavericks face long odds to repeat as champs and are significant underdogs in their series with Oklahoma City. How will the L.A. Lakers fare without Metta World Peace against an athletic Denver Nuggets team? The L.A. Clippers are in rare territory just being in the postseason, but they face a Memphis club that many think is a dark horse to win the West. Bulls-Sixers? Could be competitive. Celtics-Hawks? Will Ray Allen be able to play?
However, no offense to fans of all those teams, by far the biggest first-round storyline is the matchup between the Miami Heat and New York Knicks, with Game 1 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal tipping off Saturday in south Florida. The Heat remain 21/10 favorites to win it all despite finishing second in the East behind Chicago (for the second straight year). But the Knicks are incredibly dangerous with Carmelo Anthony on a roll and the club playing stellar defense since Interim Coach Mike Woodson took over. New York hasn’t won a playoff game since April 29, 2001. If they win this series, Woodson has the full-time gig.
Knicks at Heat Betting Story Lines
It wasn’t known whether Miami was going to face Philadelphia – which no doubt the Heat would have preferred – or New York until the final night of the regular season. But the Knicks’ beating of the pathetic Charlotte Bobcats gave New York the No. 7 seed over the Sixers. This is the first time in 12 years the Heat and Knicks have met in the playoffs.
Let’s start with the injuries first. Chris Bosh missed the Heat’s final six games because of a strained left hamstring, but there is no doubt as to whether he will play. Bosh returned to practice this week. The only key injury for the Knicks is to point guard and former sensation Jeremy Lin. He had surgery to repair a torn meniscus on April 2 and originally had hoped to be back for the first round but has been ruled out completely. Several other players on both sides are nicked up but all the key guys will play.
Miami took the season series with New York, 3-0, winning by an average of 10.7 points (covering in the final two). Miami is the only team entering the playoffs that swept its first-round opponent during the regular season. Oddly, the Knicks started a different point guard in each game vs. Miami: Toney Douglas, Lin and Baron Davis, who is the starter now. The most recent meeting was April 15 in New York (the Heat’s only visit there), a 93-85 Miami win despite 42 from Carmelo (who missed one Heat game with an injury). LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Bosh totaled 73 of the Heat’s 93 points. The Knicks didn’t have Amare Stoudemire for that game and he has returned from his back injury. Stoudemire has been solid in his four games since returning from injury, averaging 15.7 points (on stellar 57.9 percent shooting) and 7.3 rebounds. The Knicks won three of those four games.
The key here for the Knicks is to shut down Bosh and make the Heat play half-court basketball. You know LeBron and Wade are going to get theirs, but the Heat have zero depth so if Bosh also isn’t on, they are beatable. And Miami lost last year’s Finals because the Mavs – with current Knick Tyson Chandler a key component – forced Miami into a half-court game.
The Knicks have held opponents to 91.5 points per game since March 14 (when Woodson took over), the fourth-best mark in the NBA. And they've allowed only 11.6 fast-break points per game in that span, 10th-best in the league. So that all bodes well. In addition, the Knicks have a much deeper bench. Also look for New York to make sure that rookie Iman Shumpert is on the floor pretty much any time Wade is – Shumpert is already considered one of the best guard defenders in the NBA. Wade is still bothered by a dislocated left index finger as well.
Knicks at Heat Betting Odds and Key Trends
The Heat are -900 series favorites with New York at +650. Miami is an 8.5-point favorite for Game 1 with the total at 192.5 on NBA odds. The Heat were 32-34 ATS this season and 18-15 at home. New York was 36-30 ATS overall and 15-18 on the road. ‘Over/under’ records: NY 27-39, MIA 25-39-2.
The Knicks are 10-4 ATS in their past 14 games vs. teams with a winning record. New York is 1-4 ATS in its past five as a dog of at least five points. Miami is 5-2 in its past seven as a favorite. The under is 6-0 in the Knicks’ past six games vs. teams with a winning record. The under has hit in 21 of the Heat’s past 26 home games. The under is 6-0-1 in the past seven meetings in this series. The road team has covered in seven of the past nine meetings.
NBA Playoffs Odds and Picks: Knicks at Heat Betting Predictions
Obviously all the pressure here is on the Heat. If somehow they lose this series, some expect them to break up the Big 3 – perhaps Wade is the goner as Miami played extremely well when he was out and LeBron and Bosh were on the court. Plus, James will never hear the end of it if Miami doesn’t win a title this season. To win this series, the Knicks will have to be hot from the three-point line, especially Steve Novak and J.R. Smith. The Heat are very suspect defending against the three-pointer.
The last time the NBA season was shortened by a lockout, the No. 8 Knicks upset the No. 1 Heat in the first round of the playoffs. Could it happen again? Well, the Heat have not played very well since the all-star break and the Knicks have taken off under Woodson. But I frankly think the regular season means little to the Heat. Look for them to flip the switch now that the postseason is here -- James says he is more focused than ever. Miami wins this in six games barring an injury to one of the Big 3. But I would take the Knicks and the points in Game 1.
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