Memphis Grizzlies @ Miami Heat -7.5 (Total: 189.5)
My opinion of how the Heat will fare against the Bulls in the Eastern Conference Finals is fairly well documented and unwavering; Miami wins that series. However, before starting tonight’s breakdown of the Grizz and Heat, it is worth noting what Chicago did (again) last night. Since the All Star break, Boston has been the second best team in the Eastern Conference. They had momentum, had taken the lead in the Atlantic division and were beginning to beg the question “can Boston be a threat in the East?” Then they went into Chicago last night and got smacked down by the still Derrick Rose-less Chicago Bulls. The Bulls’ win pulls their season record without the reigning league MVP to 15-7. That percentage alone would make them the third best team in the NBA – without the guy who is FAR and AWAY their best player.
On paper, the Bulls don’t have one player who should be able to pick up the slack for Rose. They certainly don’t have a roster full of them. On paper.
Fortunately for them, the games are played on the court, where defense, heart and hustle matter as much as points per game and assists. Which brings me to tonight’s game…
The Heat are undoubtedly a different team at home then they are on the road. Whether it is emotion, effort, hustle, focus – those can be debated. But if this game were in Memphis, it is a flat line, perhaps Miami by a point or two (and I’d bet Memphis). But since it is in Miami, the line is a sizable -7.5 (it opened at 8.5 and has come down a full point). For good reason too; the Heat have been nearly unbeatable at home this season, posting a 23-2 record and fresh off a thrilling home win over the best in the West, Oklahoma City.
Miami’s home splits are incredible, averaging a staggering +11.8ppg at home, while Memphis is surprisingly low on the road for a team that fancies themselves as a contender in the West, at -3.0. That is a difference of nearly 15 points per contest.
I expect Chris Bosh to be a big factor tonight, as the Grizz don’t have a good matchup for him defensively. Rudy Gay is far too light and passive and Marc Gasol not equipped to track him out in the 16-18 foot range where Bosh makes his living. Memphis is also smallish in the backcourt, with Conley and Mayo – either will have their hands full with Dwayne Wade.
I like the Heat to get out early and win with ease. The only danger is if they slip it into cruise control a little too early and let the Grizz sneak back in for a backdoor cover. I think the Heat do just enough to keep this one in double-digits and get their 24th home win of the year and keep the pressure on Chicago for top honors in the East.
Free Pick: Miami Heat -7.5