My National Basketball Association stop today includes three games that each has very different levels of meaning for those involved. In Arizona, the Suns and Warriors will battle for second place in the Pacific while in Philadelphia, the Sixers and Lakers battle to stay alive. The final stop is in Utah where the lowly Jazz entertains LeBron James and the Miami Heat.
Golden State (+2) at Phoenix – The Warriors visit the land of the sun with just a half game lead over Phoenix for second place in the Western Conference’s Pacific Division. Golden State is also just three game back of the division leading Clippers.
The Warriors have gone just 5-5 over their last ten games while Phoenix has won seven of ten yet has lost two straight. The Suns are a very respectable 16-8 at home, but the Warriors are 15-11 on the road which is pretty good.
Both teams score about 104 points per game, but the Warriors give up about three points less per game on the defensive end. The rebounding advantage favors the Warriors and I like them on the road tonight.
LA Lakers (+4) at Philadelphia – There was once a time when this match-up was must-see television but that was 25 years ago. Now both of these proud franchises find themselves in the basement of their respective divisions.
Even in the less than stellar Eastern Conference, the 76ers are still seven games out of the final playoff spot. Impossible? No, but highly unlikely this team makes the playoffs. The Lakers are actually in a much worse position as they are 12.5 games out of the eighth spot. Even Kobe Bryant himself can’t save this team.
The Sixers are just 8-17 on their home floor while the Lakers are 9-19 on the road. That’s actually a win better than they have at home. LA enters at 2-4 against the spread in their last six games and is 1-4 ATS in their last five games against Philly.
A key stat to keep in mind here is that the 76ers are 0-5 against the spread in their last five home games. That trend is hard to ignore especially with LA getting four points. I’ll take the purple and gold.
Miami (-8.5) at Utah – Despite Indiana’s struggles of late, the Miami Heat remain three games behind them in the race for the top seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Miami has won three straight and is 8-2 in their last ten games. Things couldn’t be more to the opposite for Utah as the Jazz take up residency in the Western Conference basement some 22.5 games behind conference leading Oklahoma City.
The Heat are 15-9 on the road this year which is not nearly as good as the club usually is. The same could be said for Utah who is usually quite dominant at home in Salt Lake City but they are just 10-14 at home.
Miami scores on average about ten more points per game than does Utah but on the defensive end they are better by just two points. This is where the Jazz have to be successful if they are going to have a shot to win tonight. They must limit second chance opportunities and fast break chances for the Heat. I’m not sure they can do that however especially with the Heat starting to warm up again after a brief lull back in January.
Those eight and half points are tough to deal with especially on the road but I’ll take Miami to cover.