Having beaten the Orlando Magic on Wednesday by 28 points, the Miami Heat get an instant chance to inflict more punishment on their Florida rivals when the teams meet once again on Saturday night.
The bad news for the Magic is that, this time, it takes place on South Beach where the Heat are 6-1 so far. And with Orlando winless on the road, they’re a mammoth +13.5 on the handicap to pull off a shock.
Miami could have Dwyane Wade back after a two-game break and the management of his aching knees is one to watch in the months to come. Increasingly, NBA coaches are following the lead set by the San Antonio Spurs and giving key players time off to recuperate during the season in the hopes of preserving them in rude health for the play-offs. Even for a side as good as the Heat, that can factor in the potential margins of victory, especially if the champions are on court on successive nights.
Wade has been patchy, averaging 16.7 points per game, but his mere presence will take some of the attention off LeBron James and pose Orlando additional problems. Even on a large handicap, back Miami to repeat the rout.
There’s another potential mismatch in Indiana where the Pacers host the Philadelphia 76ers. The feelgood factor in Philly has evaporated with their surprise start halted by a run of four defeats in a row before they got past the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday in overtime. They’re +14 on the match handicap but with both teams on a back-to-back, expect a lower-scoring encounter so look under the points line of 193, available at 1.91.
Injuries are part and parcel of sport but the next 24 hours could impact heavily on the hopes of the Chicago Bulls and Memphis Grizzlies. For the latter, a possible sprained knee for Marc Gasol would hinder their hopes of leaving a poor start behind. But of greater concern will be the outcome of the scan on Derrick Rose after he hobbled off during the Bulls loss to Portland on Friday. If, as is feared, the 2011 MVP has sustained a second ACL injury to his right knee, 20 months after the first, their title hopes will be over.
Take Miami on the handicap of +13.5 over Orlando at 1.91
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