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NBA Preview: 22nd December

WE look to continue our strong NBA season here at the PlayBook with a couple strong looks for today.

Here’s our best for the upcoming slate:

Indiana Pacers @ Miami Heat

The Pacers head to South Beach hoping to strong back-to-back wins together in what’s been a turbulent season so far.

The road team will also be looking to exact revenge on their opponents after the Heat ran out winners in Indiana earlier this month as 5.5 point underdogs. That said, some positive shooting regression could be enough if all else remains the same given the had a -18 point differential in 3-point shooting that night.

The Pacers were able to score effectively and efficiently at the rim that night, which could be all the more prominent tonight with PJ Tucker now set to miss this contest for Miami.

Indiana’s two-big lineup of Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner should provide enough paint pressure for Indiana to exploit their advantage on the inside. If they can dominate the boards at both ends of the floor to match they should do enough alone to give Indiana the platform for an easy win here.

Miami have been hit hard with injuries and health and safety protocols.  Their rotations have been heavily impacted and they are having to rely on role players to step up and fill in minutes.

Tyler Herro remains probable at this point but that alone doesn’t outweigh the absences of Bam Adebayo, Jimmy Butler and Tucker from the starting lineup.

One area of concern for the Pacers is Miami’s perimeter offence. They shoot and score the three as well as any side and still have a number of threats from range. If they are going to keep this one close they will need to hit their shots from deep against a Pacers defence that has the ability to limit shooting but hasn’t done so with any consistency.

Without a presence in the paint, I can see Indiana wanting to push the pace in this one, converting transition buckets to maximize the advantage they have in interior scoring.

Markets closed with Indiana as -5.5 point favourites last time out. Adjusting for home court advantage and player availability I make Indiana 2.5 point favourites against this depleted Miami side.

While we aren’t getting the biggest numbers edge I think Indiana match up with well across the board and have a lot more depth than Miami at this stage.

Our best bet: Indiana Pacers win $1.75 at PlayUp

Phoenix Suns @ LA Lakers

Phoenix roll into LA to take on the Lakers as they push to continue their impressive start to the season.

Devin Booker made his return from injury last game and picked up right where he left off as the Suns comfortably took care of Charlotte in impressive manner.

The Suns remain an elite unit at both ends of the floor, rating as a top-5 team in offensive and defensive metrics. The Lakers, by contrast, remain around league average and are limited in their offensive capabilities right now.

LA hasn’t been able to put forth any sort of consistency this season, which is also partly down to their inability to have everyone healthy and available. Anthony Davis’s absence in this matchup will put further emphasis on the rim protection and rebounding disadvantage they’ll likely suffer against a team that thrives in both areas.

In their previous matchup the Suns clamped the Lakers offence and restricted them from scoring in the paint, forcing them to take mid range shots and challenging them to shoot from deep.

While LA were able to get hot from three they struggled to convert from any other spot on the floor. LA held a +15 three-point scoring differential that night and still lost by 7-points.

Monty Williams is a savvy coach and I fully expect them to continue to challenge the Lakers to beat them from deep.

LeBron has shown an interest in playing basketball since his return from injury and is averaging 26 points, 8.5 rebounds and 7 assists as he tries to single handedly resurrect the Lakers season.  They are going to need prime LeBron if they are to have any chance of hanging around in this one.

My model has Phoenix winning by as many as 10 points and I expect them to continue rolling in this one.

Our best bet: Phoenix Suns -6.5 $1.87 at PlayUp


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