Heat vs. Bucks Pick NBA – March 9th

How possessed if Damian Lillard right now? It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to call him the best player on the planet in the non-Steph category since the All Star break. The point guard is averaging over 35 points per game (trailing only Steph and Harden) and has done so with more efficiency and less defensive negligence than The Beard. Lillard was again awesome last night, leading his squad to an overtime win over John Wall and the Washington Wizards. Note to other Western Conference coaches who are feeling the flames from Big Game Dame’s heat; PICK HIM FOR THE ALL STAR GAME NEXT YEAR. You’ve all been warned.

I took yesterday off from the NBA beat, but it is worth noting that while we were away the Cavaliers lost a home game to the Grizzlies. Not the end of the world right? Well, the Grizz were without mike Conley, Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. So they basically lost to Tony Allen, Lance Stevenson and Mario Chalmers. Ugh.

If you need any more proof that the dog-days of the NBA season are upon us, then just look at the recent results: Golden State loses to the Lakers, Cleveland the aforementioned depleted Grizz, and the Spurs lost to the Pacers (though rebounded beating the daylights out of Minnesota in the Target Center without playing any key starters). It is going to be VERY important to keep an eye on non-injury DNP’s over the next few weeks as teams start playing the precarious balancing act between “resting for the postseason” and “securing playoff seeding.”

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Today’s Free Pick:

Miami Heat -3.5 at Milwaukee Bucks

Don’t look now, but this Bucks team is actually competent again.   They have finally gotten healthy and are starting to find some of the identity that helped them be the surprise team in the East last year. They are likely far to far gone to make the postseason, but there are still reasons for optimism in Milwaukee. One of the biggest reasons is the interesting success of the Giannis/Plumlee pick and roll magic that has blossomed since Kidd began experimenting with the ‘Greek Freak’ at the one. This could spell some difficulties for the Heat, as Whiteside is a below-average defender if pulled from the rim, and Chris Bosh, one of the best and most underrated team defenders in the NBA, is still out.

Milwaukee is 18-12 at home, a surprisingly good record for a team with such a poor overall season record. They are tough to beat in the Bradley Center. They are 6-6 in their last 12 games overall and own home wins over Boston, Houston and Washington. Miami is probably better than all but Boston, but I still like the Bucks to build on some home momentum.

Miami has won five straight, and I am reading lots of article about the Joe Johnson signing giving them a boost. But let’s all relax a bit. Those five wins include a pair over the Sixers, a win vs the Suns, a win at the Knicks and a home win over the Bulls without Jimmy Butler. So let’s not anoint this team a contender just yet.

In fact, I think they lose straight up today. This is a tricky matchup and the Bucks are an underrated home team. Add in the points, and I’m on the Bucks tonight.

Free Pick: Milwaukee Bucks +3.5