We had a nice winning night, albeit a small one; with the Mavericks overtime win over the Clippers. Tonight we will try to make like the Miami Heat and keep the winning ways intact. In fact, let’s focus on those Miami Heat and their trip to Chicago for tonight’s free pick.
Miami Heat -5 at Chicago Bulls (Total: 185.5)
The Heat head to Chicago seeking to extend the second longest win streak in NBA history to 27 games. Somewhat lost in the magic of the streak has been the ferocity of their defense when they’ve needed to ratchet it up a notch. Defense has been the calling card of the Chicago Bulls since Coach Thibs arrived three years ago, but it is the Heat who arrive with the slight edge in their defensive unit.
The Bulls hold opponents to a slightly lower FG%; 43.9% vs. Miami’s 44.0%, and allow two fewer points per game, but a lot of that is tempo-driven. I am more interested in point differential. In that category, the Heat at +8.0 ppg, while the Bulls are at a surprisingly low 0.5%.
The game is in Chicago, which would on the surface give the Bulls a nice advantage, but their 19-16 home record is actually a half game WORSE than their road record; that’s an anomaly you don’t see often in the NBA, but one that I think the Heat can exploit tonight. Allowing for the fact that home court “advantage” isn’t actually much of one for Chicago, a five point spread seems like a pretty low price to back the hottest team in the NBA coming off a few days rest.
Miami has Dwayne Wade listed as questionable tonight following his absence in the Charlotte game (which obviously didn’t slow the team a bit), and is all but certain to play tonight. However, Chicago also has Joakim Noah listed as questionable. While it is a fair supposition he also plays tonight against the rival Heat, it remains to see how effective he will be on his injured foot. A bad foot is never a plus before having to chase Chris Bosh out to eighteen feet all night long.
I like Miami to go into Chicago, the game along with San Antonio that many have ear-marked as the potential “streak ender”, and get a big win. I’m not scared off by the five points. It seems like a more than reasonable price to get the best team in the NBA playing a team barely above .500 at home.
Free Pick: Miami Heat -5