Miami at Dallas
Time: 7:30 PM CT (TNT)
Spread: MIA -1.5
Betting odds c/o 5dimes
The Miami Heat are red hot as winners of eight of its past 10 games. The Heat trail the Detroit Pistons by just one game for the East’s No. 8 seed, and it will travel to take on the Dallas Mavericks at 7:30 PM (CT) on TNT. The Mavericks are 5-5 over its past 10 games and 15-14 at home this season, but find themselves 1.5 point underdogs to Dion Waiters and the Heat.
Miami has won three straight games by eight points or more, with the most recent victories over the Atlanta Hawks and Indiana Pacers coming by a combined 36 points. The Heat is making a strong case for Erik Spoelstra being in Coach of the Year conversations, and Waiters has plenty to do with why.
The Oklahoma City Thunder’s discarded 2-guard had 22 points on 8 of 15 shooting in the win over Indiana, and over his past seven games, he is averaging 19.3 points and 5.9 assists per game while shooting 48.1 percent from the floor. He has been back for four games since sustaining a minor injury, and he has scored in double-figures in all of those contests while recording two double-doubles over that span (including a 23 points, seven assists, 10 rebound outing against the Houston Rockets, as the Heat won 117-109).
Miami looks to be a formidable playoff opponent, though drawing the Cavaliers will certainly do it no favors. In order to ascend to the No. 7 spot in the East and a much more favorable matchup against the likes of Boston or Washington, Miami must leapfrog the Pacers who are currently three games ahead in the standings. What makes the possibility intriguing is how badly Indy is struggling right now (lost seven of its past 10), and the fact that Paul George has yet to put it really to the floor this season. The Pacers are struggling and the Heat is surging, and history has taught us to favor the hot team. That hot streak should continue tonight as the Heat take on a Dallas team that recently made a major trade deadline acquisition.
While The Dallas Mavericks did subtract Andrew Bogut’s services, the big news was that it added disgruntled Philadelphia 76ers forward Nerlens Noel. For the first time, we are seeing a new core come together in Dallas with Noel joining max-contract signee Harrison Barnes in the frontcourt.
Augmenting that youth is the fine play of Dirk Nowitzki, who even at his advanced 38-year-old age proves to be an effective post player for Dallas. He still draws double-teams. Nowitzki is averaging 13.8 points and 6.2 rebounds per game this year in just 26 minutes a night, while Barnes has assumed the role of No. 1 option and isolation scorer. Barnes is averaging over 20 points per game this season, though his other contributions are minimal at best. Still, Dallas feels it got its money’s worth with the budding star, and losing Deron Williams along with Bogut hardly hurts given the emergence of Yogi Ferrell.
Ferrell has been the other major bright spot for Dallas this season, as the rookie is averaging 12.8 points, 4.8 assists and 3.2 rebounds while posting a league-average PER (14.9). The Mavericks still need to add more scorers and youth, but the transition is starting to show its shape with a young core that really features Noel, Barnes and Ferrell. Justin Anderson was dealt to obtain Noel, and his scoring will be missed from the second unit, but the former first-round pick was st ill seeing just 14 minutes a game for Dallas and will undoubtedly see a larger role once in Philadelphia. The Mavericks should keep this close, but challenging the hot hand of Waiters and the continuity of the Heat’s offense will be difficult. The Heat is making its surge and Dallas is not the disaster it looked to be through the first-quarter of the season.
NBA oddsmakers set the line close in favoring the Heat by just 1.5 points (as of 2 PM CT), and it is somewhat surprising the odds are not entirely even, especially given that Dallas is hosting this game. Keep an eye on this one for late line shifts.