NBA Odds and Predictions: Thursday, April 2 Opening Line Report and Handicapping
by Alan Matthews - 4/1/2015
Typically light schedule this Thursday with the TNT doubleheader and just one other game. Perhaps the most interesting one is Miami at Cleveland, the final time LeBron James sees his former team this regular season -- and you know he doesn't want to lose the season series to old buddy Dwayne Wade. It's quite possible that Cleveland and Miami would face off in the first round of the playoffs as the Cavs are probably going to be the No. 2 seed and the Heat currently are No. 7. Think the TV networks would like that matchup? Here's a look at Thursday's games.
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Heat at Cavaliers (-11, 200)
Miami comes off a 95-81 home loss to San Antonio on Tuesday. Wade was just 6-for-20 from the field for 15 points. Hassan Whiteside returned after missing three games with a lacerated hand and had 10 points. The Heat played without Udonis Haslem (flu) and Luol Deng (knee), so they are questionable here. Cleveland has been off since an 87-86 home win over Philadelphia on Sunday. Clearly the Cavaliers were a bit gassed for that game, not scoring in the final 4:04 and shooting only 38.8 percent but still winning their 16th straight at home. Both Kevin Love (lower back) and Iman Shumpert (left ankle) were forced to leave the game early, but neither injury is considered serious. Love, for one, says he expects to play Thursday.
Miami indeed does lead the season series 2-1, winning both games in south Florida. The first was the hyped Christmas Day matchup, a 101-91 Heat victory behind 31 points from Wade and 25 from Deng. That was before Cleveland made all those important trades. The Heat visited Cleveland on Feb. 11 and lost 113-93. James had 18 points to lead seven players in double figures. Wade missed that game with an injury. On March 16 in Miami, the Heat won 106-92 behind 32 from Wade and 20 points and nine assists from Goran Dragic. James had 26, but the Cavs were outscored by 17 with him on the court.
Key trends: The Heat have covered four of their past 14 vs. teams with a winning record. The Cavs are 9-3 against the spread in their past 12 after an ATS loss. The "over/under" has gone under in six of Miami's past seven games. The under is 5-1 in the Cavs' past six at home.
Early lean: Cavaliers and over.
Rockets at Mavericks (TBA)
Dallas was in Oklahoma City on Wednesday while Houston hosted Sacramento. The Rockets are not going to play Dwight Howard in both ends of a back-to-back. I would presume they would play him at home and then not on the road here, but perhaps Houston thinks it can beat the injury-depleted Kings without Howard and could use him more against the Mavericks. That's what I would do. Forward Terrence Jones was set to return from injury Wednesday. The Rockets lost point guard Patrick Beverley to season-ending wrist surgery this week. Shame we rarely got to see this team at full strength.
This is the final meeting of the regular season, with Houston leading 2-1. The Rockets won 95-92 at home on Nov. 22 behind 32 points from James Harden and without Howard. On Jan. 28 in Houston, the Rockets won 99-94 despite just 17 from Harden. Howard missed that one as well. On Feb. 20 in Dallas, the Mavs won 111-100. Al-Farouq Aminu had his best game of the season with 17 points and 12 rebounds for Dallas. Harden had 26 and once again Howard didn't play. Sixteen of the last 20 regular-season meetings between the Mavericks and the Rockets have been decided by eight points or less.
Key trends: Houston is 1-6 ATS in its past seven in Dallas. The under is 4-1 in the Rockets' past five on the road and 6-0 in the Mavericks' past six in the second of a back-to-back.
Early lean: Wait on Howard.
Suns at Warriors (-12, 209.5)
Phoenix is nearing elimination time from the playoffs. The Suns lost a fourth straight Monday, 109-86 in Portland. It wasn't even that close as Portland was up 27 at one point and sat its starters. It was the Suns' seventh loss by 20 or more points this season. Phoenix was again without guard Brandon Knight. He returned after missing eight games on Sunday against Oklahoma City but then tweaked his sprained left ankle. In addition, center Alex Len broke his nose against Portland. Golden State won a great game Tuesday at the Clippers, 110-106 for its 10th straight victory. Steph Curry and Klay Thompson combined for 52 points as the Warriors rallied from a 17-point deficit. The home team had won 10 straight regular-season games in the series. Draymond Green missed his second straight game with a minor shin injury.
Golden State lost the first meeting with Phoenix, 107-95 in the desert for the Warriors' first loss of the season. They have routed the Suns in two meetings since. The most recent was 98-80 on the road on March 9. Curry had 36 points.
Key trends: The Suns are 1-5 ATS in their past six at Golden State. The under is 5-2 ATS in the past seven meetings.
Early lean: I think Warriors might be a bit flat after Tuesday's big win. Suns won't win but will cover. Go over.
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