The Miami Heat enter the game as 3.5 point home favorites according to the spread at Bodog. It’s interesting to see how the handicappers have labelled the unproven Heat as favorites against both Boston and Orlando, two proven teams with a recent history of success. Boston proved the handicappers wrong, but will Orlando?
One thing that works in Orlando’s favor is the relative weakness of Miami’s point guard and center positions. Jameer Nelson and Dwight Howard are arguably Orlando’s two best players, playing at the two weakest positions for the Heat. There is no way that Joel Anthony, Zydrunas Ilgauaskas, and Juwan Howard can do anything close to containing Dwight Howard. However, if they resort to a “hack-a-Howard” methodology, it will be up to Dwight to nail some of the free throws. Meanwhile, Carlos Arroyo will have the task of checking Jameer Nelson, which will give him all he can handle, too.
In the Heat’s favor, however, is the fact that Orlando lacks a lock down defender after losing Matt Barnes to free agency. Quentin Richardson is not a poor defender, but he is not as good as Barnes either. Richardson will have the task of guarding LeBron James, which should give him a bit more than he can handle. Expect a big game from James tonight.
Oddly enough, all of Orlando’s strengths are Miami’s weaknesses. The Magic are known for having an incredibly deep bench, while Miami is notorious for their lack of depth. Look for Orlando’s second unit to exploit the Heat’s and either build on or make up the difference in leads at that point. Not having Mike Miller will certainly hurt the Heat, as he was supposed to be the stalwart of their second unit. Instead, they now lack a leader for the second unit off the bench, and as shown in the Boston game, second quarters are going to be a problem for the Heat this year. If Gortat can manage to play well and take advantage of the cumbersome Zydrunas Ilgauaskas, it will go a long way towards enabling Orlando’s second unit to dominate the Heat’s.
Expect American Airlines arena to have a playoff-like atmosphere tonight, as this marks the first game at home with the “Big 3.” LeBron James admitted himself, however, that the Heat are going to need time to gel. I think that, ultimately, along with their lack of depth, will prove to be the downfall of the Heat in tonight’s game. While homecourt advantage promises to be huge in this matchup, the Magic are a good road team and have won big games on the road in the past three seasons. Moreover, though the Magic are coming off a back-to-back, it should not be a problem as the blowout game against Washington provided ample rest for Orlando’s starters.
I don’t see Miami having the horses to compete tonight, and I don’t expect them to cover the point spread. In fact, I don’t see them winning the game tonight. Free NBA Prediction for this game is: Orlando by 5.
Maddux Sports has released NBA picks for today and is expecting to have another great day on the hardwood. Visit the NBA basketball picks page to view the premium picks we have lined up for tonight’s big NBA card.