Hot LA Lakers visit Miami Heat for marquee NBA odds clash

By: Stephen Nover | Wednesday, March 9, 2011

If some Miami Heat players were moved to tears following this past Sunday’s loss to Chicago, there must have been a flood after the Heat lost at home again to Portland on Tuesday.

Miami brings a five-game losing streak to its Thursday home matchup against the Los Angeles Lakers at 5:05 p.m. PT on TNT.

Outside of South Florida, there is little sympathy for LeBron James and the struggling Heat. James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Co. might want to actually win an NBA title before celebrating like they did prior to this season beginning.

The Heat are 2-6 since the All-Star break. They have failed to cover in their last seven games and are 0-5 ATS during their past five home contests.

The streaking Lakers are going the opposite way. They stumbled into the All-Star break on a three-game losing streak with appalling road losses to Orlando, Charlotte and even, gulp, Cleveland.

But since then, the Lakers have tightened their defense and ripped off eight consecutive victories. Los Angeles has held its past eight foes to an average of 87 points on 40 percent shooting from the field while going 7-1 ATS during its win streak.

The two-time defending world champions had allowed an average of 97.5 points per game and 46.3 percent shooting from Jan. 12-Feb. 16 when they went a mediocre 10-8.

Phil Jackson and his coaching staff tweaked the Lakers’ defense, Kobe Bryant is showing why he’s a 13-time All-Star and center Andrew Bynum has pulled down 16 or more rebounds in his last three games as Los Angeles is back to elite status.

The same can’t be said for Miami.

James may be the best player in the league and Wade is right up there, too. But the Heat have a number of serious holes. They lack good pivot play, their bench is weak and Bosh appears overrated.

The Heat have dominated weaker clubs, but are just 3-10 versus above-.500 teams since January and 1-9 against the five teams that have better records.

James has scored 25 or more points in eight games – one short of a Miami team record – but lately has missed a number of clutch shots as three of the Heat’s loses during their skid have occurred in the final seconds.

Only once all season have the Heat scored a basket when down three or less points in the final 10 seconds of the fourth quarter or overtime.

An early season injury to Udonis Haslem, the Heat’s best rebounder and a top defender, really hurt their frontcourt.

Miami’s reserves scored only six points against the Bulls and were outscored, 41-8, during a 105-96 loss this past Tuesday to Portland. Miami was 8 ½-point home favorites with the combined 201 points going ‘over’ the 187 ½-point total.

Wade scored 38 points in the loss to the Trail Blazers. James had 31 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists. Bosh only had seven points, though, in 40 minutes.

Bryant had 26 points in Los Angeles’ latest victory, 101-87, against Atlanta this past Tuesday as 4 ½-point road ‘chalk.’ The combined 188 points went ‘over’ the 183 ½-point total. Bynum contributed 16 points, 16 rebounds and three blocked shots.

The Lakers have covered in eight of their last nine road games when facing an opponent with a winning home record.

The ‘under’ has cashed in 24 of the Lakers’ last 33 games versus Eastern Conference foes. The ‘under’ has cashed five of the past six times the Lakers have met the Heat in Miami.

Miami has covered in its last five games against the Lakers, who no doubt can gear up for the Heat’s “A” game. The question is even if Miami is sky-high for the home matchup, are the Heat good enough to beat the Lakers right now?

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