The Miami Heat are not a better team without Dwyane Wade, but NBA bettors have certainly been happier with him missing this season.
The Heat just dropped the final three games of their 5-game trip. The first two were in overtime at Golden State (111-106) and the Clippers (95-89), renewing criticism of their inability to close games. The last one was a 117-104 loss at Denver on Friday night.
The losses coincided with the return of Wade from a foot injury. He then hurt his ankle versus Denver, with the extent of the injury unknown. Bettors may be happy if he’s out with Miami 3-0 SU and ATS without him, compared to 5-4 SU and 2-7 ATS with him.
The Heat are off until Tuesday when they host San Antonio, but there is plenty of solid action before then.
NFL Playoffs lead into NBA Sunday night
The NFL playoffs on Sunday afternoon make way for two interesting NBA games that night. It begins with Denver hosting Utah at 8:00 p.m. (ET) and still feeling good about that Miami win.
Denver (8-4 SU, 9-3 ATS) is the second-highest scoring team in the league (104.8 PPG), with five guys in double-digits led by point guard Ty Lawson (17.1 PPG). However, the ‘over’ is surprisingly just 6-6. Only Philadelphia has a better ATS record (8-2-1) and the Nuggets are 6-1 SU and 5-2 ATS at home.
The Jazz (6-4 SU, 5-5 ATS) will be playing the second half of a back-to-back. They hosted New Jersey on Saturday night as 9-point favorites with the result pending. They’re 1-3 SU and ATS away, scoring just 87 PPG.
Phoenix (4-7 SU, 5-6 ATS) at San Antonio (8-4 SU, 5-7 ATS) is at 9:00 p.m. (ET) on ESPN. The Suns are 0-3 SU and ATS in their last three, most recently home losses to lowly Cleveland (101-90) and New Jersey (110-103).
The New Jersey contest on Friday was played without Steve Nash (thigh, back) and Grant Hill (quad). They’re each questionable for Sunday. Relying on players age 37 and 39 is never a good idea, but much more dangerous in this condensed season. Shannon Brown and Ronnie Price combined for 31 points in their absence last game, but Nash is badly needed.
San Antonio has its own injury problem with Manu Ginobili (hand) out several weeks. This is a deep group that has rookie Kawhi Leonard replacing him after previously going with Gary Neal. The Spurs are perfect at home (8-0 SU) and winless away (0-4 SU). The home ATS mark is 5-3 overall, but 2-3 ATS since Ginobili went out.
Full slate on Martin Luther King Jr. Day
Editor’s note: All games featured Monday are with teams playing Saturday night. Those games are still pending.
The MLK holiday means a heavy 11-game slate starting at 1:00 p.m. (ET). That’s when Chicago (11-2 SU, 9-4 ATS) visits Memphis (4-6 SU and ATS) on ESPN.
Chicago has the NBA’s best record and is looking like a serious contender to Miami in the East. The Bulls are 4-0 SU and ATS the last four despite Richard Hamilton (groin) missing them all. Derrick Rose came back from a 1-game toe injury to score 25 points in an 88-79 Friday night win at Boston.
The Grizzlies had a nice 94-83 home win over the Knicks on Thursday. They were helped by 26 points by Rudy Gay and ice-cold 37.3 percent shooting from New York. The power forward position has been a problem since Zach Randolph (knee) went out. New starter Marreese Speights had just two points in over 22 minutes last game and that won’t cut it against Chicago.
NBA-TV grabs the coverage at 4:00 p.m. (ET) with Toronto (4-8 SU, 6-6 ATS) at Atlanta (8-4, 7-5 ATS). The Hawks recently suffered a big blow with center Al Horford (pectoral) out until April. Zaza Pachulia is the new starter. The Raptors could be without their center and leading scorer Andrea Bargnani (22.3 PPG) due to a calf injury.
TNT wraps things up at 8:00 p.m. (ET) with a doubleheader of Oklahoma City (10-2 SU, 6-6 ATS) at Boston (4-6 SU, 5-5 ATS), followed by Dallas (7-5 SU, 8-4 ATS) at the Los Angeles Lakers (9-4 SU, 7-6 ATS).
This will be the first return to Boston for center Kendrick Perkins after the controversial trade last February. He’s not a scorer, but brings defense and toughness to the Western Conference’s best team. The Celtics are reeling with over-the-hill former superstars. They’ve dropped their last three, all at home, scoring 79.3 PPG with the ‘under’ 3-0.
The defending champion Mavericks are 4-0 SU and ATS the last four after starting 3-5 SU and 4-4 ATS. The Lakers have won 5-straight (3-2 ATS) and will be coming off an emotional ‘battle of L.A.’ Saturday night versus the upstart Clippers.