The Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder met in the 2012 NBA Finals. They are two of the NBA betting favorites to play for the next NBA title. They take the court in separate road games on Thursday.
Miami Heat @ New York Knicks
Thursday, 8:05 PM ET
Odds: Heat -6.5
The Heat don’t have anything to be overly concerned about right now, with the exception of guard Dwyane Wade’s knee. As long as Wade is physically ready for the playoffs, the Heat – which will not get anything less than the second seed in a weak Eastern Conference – should be in a good position to defend their NBA title. This might, however, be a problem for the Heat in this particular game on this particular night. The Heat are good enough to beat a lot of teams, the Knicks included, even when they’re not playing at their best. However, they’re going to have a tough time getting motivated for each and every game they play. This is just a fact of life when a team is coming off three straight NBA Finals appearances and two straight NBA championships. One Thursday game in early January is not always going to get this team’s attention. Moreover, the Knicks are on an upswing, and their recent winning binge has put them just 1.5 games from the number eight spot in the East. The Knicks are hungry, and that desire could push them past a Miami team that won’t feel that it has nearly as much to prove here. New York big man Tyson Chandler, however, might not play in this game. His status is up in the air. If he’s able to play and be effective, though, the Knicks should be the choice on the betting lines.
Pick: New York Knicks
Oklahoma City Thunder @ Denver Nuggets
Thursday, 10:35 PM ET
This is an interesting game to pick for a number of reasons. First, Denver has scored 137 and 129 points in its last two games, pummeling the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics. It’s true that the Lakers and Celtics are not what they used to be, but averaging 133 points in a two-game stretch is still noticeable; it’s not something you regularly see in today’s NBA. Such scoring totals were much more common in the 1980s, when the Denver Nuggets consistently played high-scoring games. Is Denver entering a period in which it is going to make a big move up the ladder in the Western Conference?
The other thing to look at in this game is that Oklahoma City – now without point guard Russell Westbrook – just got popped by the Utah Jazz on Tuesday night. Are the Thunder in the midst of a downturn, or was that game against Utah an aberration? The sense here is that Oklahoma City just had a really rotten night at the office, and that it will be ready to bounce back against a relatively mediocre opponent. Take the Thunder in this game.
Pick: Oklahoma City