The NBA Game Breakdown takes an in-depth look at all of the games on the schedule each day in terms of expected pace of play, Vegas lines and defense vs. position matchups.
Miami Heat @ Cleveland Cavaliers
It’s difficult to believe that the Heat (34-40) are six games below the .500 mark and they currently hold onto the 7th seed in the Eastern Conference playoff picture, but you have to consider the level of competition in the East these days. The 6th, 7th and 8th seeds will all likely be teams that finish below the .500 mark, and to make things even more surprising? There are six teams fighting for those three slots, all of which have a legitimate chance of making the playoffs. Unfortunately, the Heat have to head into Cleveland to take on the Cavaliers (48-27), who are 8-2 over their last 10 games. The Cavs are 27-9 at home and are playing some of the best basketball in the league right now. Dwyane Wade and Hassan Whiteside will need to be on top of their game if they want to beat the Cavs, but with a +4.8 point differential this season, I don’t see LeBron James and the Cavs rolling over in this one. The pace of the game will be ugly at times; although, if you’re smart, you’ll take the 200 under and the Heat plus the points.
Line: CLE -12.0, Over/Under: 200
Players to Watch
- Dwyane Wade, SG, Heat – 12th OPRK ($7,300)
- Hassan Whiteside, C, Heat – 20th OPRK ($7,200)
- Goran Dragic, PG, Heat – 14th OPRK ($6,700)
- J.R. Smith, SG, Cavaliers – 18th OPRK ($5,600)
Houston Rockets @ Dallas Mavericks
The Rockets (50-24) and Mavericks (45-29) are both jockeying for playoff position; although, it’s starting to look like the Rockets are the only team here to really gain an advantage. With only two games separating four teams from the 3rd and the 6th seeds in the Western Conference, the Rockets are going to do their best to steal one away on the road. The Rockets remain one of the better offensive clubs in the NBA with 103.3 PPG (7th) and 22.3 APG (9th) averages, while the Mavericks have lost two games in a row and four out of their last five due to an offensive slump. I don’t see the Mavs doing enough to pull out of their late-season funk, so take the Rockets and the points (+2.5) on the road. If you’re looking for a nice value play on the night, consider Chandler Parsons as a solid risk.
Line: DAL -2.5, Over/Under: None
Players to Watch
- James Harden, SG, Rockets – 25th OPRK ($11,300)
- Chandler Parsons, SF, Mavericks – 21st OPRK ($6,500)
- Dirk Nowitzki, PF, Mavericks – 17th OPRK ($5,900)
- Tyson Chandler, C, Mavericks – 29th OPRK ($5,300)
Phoenix Suns @ Golden State Warriors
With only seven games left in the season, Brandon Knight and the Suns (38-37) will need a sports-miracle to vault themselves into the Western Conference playoffs. The major obstacle, however, is getting Knight to suit up, as he’s missed a whole slew of games with a heel injury. As of Tuesday night, Knight is listed as doubtful for Thursday’s game, so don’t just slot him in without getting a status update. The Suns head into Northern California to take on the Warriors (61-13), who celebrate the best record in the NBA to go along with their brand-spanking new Western Conference title. Look for the Warriors to give the Suns their fifth loss in a row on Thursday, even if by some nutty miracle Knight is active for the game. The Warriors have won 10 games in a row, and 15 out of their last 16 contests. So much for resting their starters, eh? Don’t expect the Warriors to cover the -11.5 line, even as tempting as it is.
Line: GS -11.5, Over/Under: 209.5
Players to Watch
- Stephen Curry, PG, Warriors – 26th OPRK ($9,300)
- Klay Thompson, SG, Warriors – 17th OPRK ($7,300)
- Brandon Knight, PG, Suns – 18th OPRK ($5,500)
- Harrison Barnes, SF, Warriors – 27th OPRK ($5,000)
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