Irving, Cleveland invade Sunshine State
Few in the NBA are hotter right now than Hassan Whiteside and the Heat. But do Erik Spoelstra’s troops have what it takes to knock off the Eastern Conference-leading Cavaliers?
The two clubs clash this evening, with an 8 p.m. ET tip at American Airlines Arena. Online sports book Bovada.lv gives LeBron James & Co. odds of -115 to emerge victorious. Conversely, Miami represents a +105 underdog.
Despite last night’s 110-99 loss to Orlando, Miami has gone 17-4 since Jan. 17. The South Beach crew sits 1 ½ games behind Detroit for the eighth and final playoff spot in the East. Whiteside’s almost single-handedly closing the gap, averaging 16.6 points, 14.2 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per contest.
Wednesday’s agonizing defeat in Boston aside, the Cavs appear well on their way to locking up another No. 1 seed. Kyrie Irving’s coming off a 43-point outing at Atlanta, while James added 38 in that 135-130 triumph. And as if Cleveland wasn’t inflicting enough damage on the offensive end, J.R. Smith (thumb) is expected to return within the next two weeks.
On Dec. 9, James nearly burned his former team for a triple-double. We wouldn’t be surprised to see that materialize here. Plus, Miami’s inability to defend the 3-point line just spells disaster against a Cavaliers group loaded with gunners.
SATURDAY NBA FREE PICK: CAVALIERS -1.5