The third-place team in the Western Conference faces off against the second-place team in the East on Friday night when the LA Clippers head to Miami to face the Heat.
The Clippers face Miami after a tough loss to the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday night, so they’ll look to get back on track against a Heat team on a two-game win streak.
Miami is one of the league’s best teams and is starting to be considered a legitimate title contender. Jimmy Butler & Co. will look to grab a big win at home over a Western Conference favorite.
Los Angeles comes in as a two-point favorite in this one. Let’s look at both teams and decide who to pick.
Clippers Look To Stop The Heat Wave
The Clippers are coming off a rough loss handed to them by the Hawks. To be fair, though, the Clippers were shorthanded in that game, missing Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and Patrick Beverley. With arguably the Clippers’ three best players missing from the contest, it’s no mystery how the Hawks were able to come back from a 21-point deficit.
The Clippers could still be without Paul George and Patrick Beverley for this game, which could spell trouble, considering they’ll be playing one of the league’s best scoring teams.
Although they might be missing these two key players, Los Angeles will most likely be adding Leonard back into the lineup. With Kawhi back and Lou Williams being healthy, it’ll be interesting to see how they fare against the Heat.
So, here’s the problem, the Clippers have been awful against the spread recently. With a record of 3-6 ATS in their last nine games, the Clippers have been hard to rely on to cover.
Most of this inability to cover has been due to injury, and although they’ve been winning games, covering the spread just hasn’t fallen in their favor.
Becoming A Finals Favorite
The Heat are one of the best teams in the league and are currently the second-best team in the Eastern Conference. With Butler clearly happy with his new home in Miami, the Heat have become something they haven’t been since Dwyane Wade and LeBron James were there: A title contender.
With wins over the Kings and the Wizards this week, the Heat have another contender in their sights, the Clippers.
The great thing about the Heat is consistency, Justise Winslow has obviously been injured, but besides him, the Heat have stayed healthy. If how healthy this team is doesn’t give you enough confidence, consider this is a Miami team that has only lost one game at home.
Miami is the 12th-best scoring team in the league, has the fifth-best field-goal percentage, and is the second-best team shooting from three.
Against the spread, the Heat have done great at home, currently boasting a 14-6-1 record ATS. Miami will look to add a 15 in that win column. Keep in mind that Miami is 9-0 in its last nine games at home and is 5-1 straight up against Western Conference opponents.
Pick and Prediction
The Clippers are one of the best teams in the Western Conference, and although they’ve had a great year, missing George and Beverley is a big hit to their defense. Leonard can’t cover the whole court, and he’ll have his hands full dealing with Butler in this one.
The Heat are playing lights-out basketball at home, one of the best teams shooting from three and the best team defending threes. Considering they’ll likely not have to worry about two key Clippers, the Heat can focus on stopping Kawhi. I’ll take the home team in this one, Miami +2.