Miami – Houston
The Miami Heat aren’t looking quite themselves. Five losses out of six. LeBron James’ scoring dropping faster than his MVP hopes. And a hefty dent in their ambitions of overtaking Indiana and San Antonio to gain the top seed in the NBA playoffs.
Still, the reigning champions remain 3.50 favourites to defend their title, just ahead of Indiana (3.75) with Oklahoma City Thunder back at 6.00.
But Miami are in need of an urgent lift when they host the Houston Rockets on Sunday, 12 days after a 106-103 loss at their Texan foes sparked their current slump.
James has averaged just 20.2 points in his last six outings but he’s merely one among many who have regressed offensively, with rebounding also at a premium. The reigning MVP is 1.85 to score under 27 points against the Rockets and with the visitors still notching 106.2 per game, and the Heat putting up a mere 96.5 during their present slide, it’s clear he will require extra production from Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
Houston has dropped two on the road following five consecutive wins and although James Harden is bringing a team-high 24.6 points, he was held to just eight in Thursday’s loss at Chicago. It’s worth going under his line of 25.5 at 1.85 while backing the Rockets on the handicap of +5.5.
LA Clippers – Cleveland
With ten consecutive wins, the Los Angeles Clippers have dropped to 3.75 to claim the Western Conference title and much of that is down to a defence which seems more cohesive by the week.
There’s only one blot. With Blake Griffin’s back giving cause for concern, expect coach Doc Rivers to give the All Star as much rest as possible over the last month of the regular season.
They host a Cleveland Cavaliers team on Sunday which has been boosted by solid road wins in Phoenix and Golden State but backing the Clippers at -7 on the handicap should still come up trumps.
However look under 25.5 points for Griffin at 1.85 – in another rout, he’ll surely head to the bench as early as possible.
Best bet: Go under the line of 25.5 points for Houston’s James Harden at 1.85