It wasn’t too long ago that the Miami Heat and Orlando Magic made Florida an important stop on any basketball schedule. Before Lebron James took over South Beach, Dwight Howard’s Magic was a force in the East.
But those days seem like an eternity ago and now Florida is nothing more than a quick stopover in warm weather for those teams eager to escape the colder northern climate.
With both teams fighting hard for a play-off spot, there’s more than state pride on the line when the Heat and Magic meet in Miami this evening.
Miami is desperate to shake off the ghost of Lebron that still hangs over the city and although they beat James’ new team on Christmas Day, there’s still work to be done.
Only a lot of wins and a deep play-off run will suffice.
Last time these teams met, it was Miami’s Chris Bosh who did the damage to Orlando and the Magic will be aware that Bosh is set to return to the line-up this evening after missing a number of games due to a calf injury.
You can get a Heat victory at 1.52, but Miami to win with a -4.5 handicap is yours for 1.91.
Another team in a battle to make the playoffs is the Brooklyn Nets and like last season, off to another slow start.
Last year the Nets improved and made the second round of the play-offs but that looks a tall order this time around, despite playing in the watered-down Eastern Conference.
But at only three games under .500, a post-season berth is still within reach and they should get another vital win when the Sacramento Kings roll into town.
The Nets have been trying hard to offload Deron Williams recently and have even been discussing moving him to tonight’s opponents. Williams’ age (30) and susceptibility to injury mean he’s not currently a key part of the rotation.
With that in mind, ignore any trade talk and take the 1.85 for a Brooklyn win.
Best bet: Back the Heat to win at 1.91 on the -4.5 handicap.