LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS (35-16)
at MIAMI HEAT (32-14)
Tip-off: Friday, 8:05 p.m. ET
Line: Miami -3, Total: 195
Miami is looking to avenge an early season loss to the Clippers when they take the floor at American Airlines Arena on Friday night.
The Clippers defeated the Heat 107-100 in the Staples Center on Nov. 14, shooting 49% from the floor, 48% from three (10-for-21) and 84% from the foul line (27-of-32). Since then, a lot has happened. Both teams have risen to the top half of the standings in their respective conferences with the Heat in first in the Eastern Conference. Miami enters Friday on a three-game winning streak (1-2 ATS), topping Houston 114-108 on Wednesday. On the other hand, the Clippers had lost three straight (SU and ATS) before beating lowly Orlando on Wednesday. Los Angeles has been dealing with a lot of injuries lately, but they are expected to get back PG Chris Paul (knee) and SG Chauncey Billups (foot) against the Heat. PF Blake Griffin (hamstring) and SG Jamal Crawford (shoulder) were at practice on Thursday, and are listed as questionable.
Who will win this marquee matchup on Friday night? For the answer, connect to NBA Best Bets for all the Expert picks throughout the entire 2012-13 season. For NBA Best Bets, the experts are a collective 13-4 ATS (76%) in the past three days and are 29-16 ATS (64.4%) in the month of February. StatFox Scott is 10-3 ATS (77%) in his February Best Bets, improving to 55.4% ATS (77-62-1) for the season. StatFox Dave is 9-4 ATS (69%) this month and StatFox Gary is 3-0 ATS in the past three days. For NBA Totals, the experts are an outstanding 37-17 (69%) in the past 13 days with Gary at 14-4 (78%), StatFox Brian going 12-5 (71%) and Scott at 11-8 (58%) since Jan. 25. For the season, Scott is a whopping 58% (73-53) in Totals, while Gary is a profitable 53.3% (65-57-4).
The Clippers have been struggling now without Chris Paul running the point, going 3-6 (SU and ATS) in the past nine games without him. But now they get back their star point guard as well as Chauncey Billups (15.5 PPG in career), who has played just three games this season. But PG Eric Bledsoe will still be a key to this backcourt, coming off a career-high 27 points (19 after halftime) on Wednesday, and posting 22.3 PPG and 7.3 APG in his past three contests. He was also able to chip in six steals on the defensive end in Orlando. PF Blake Griffin could also be back in the lineup after missing two games. He most recently scored 20 points and added 11 rebounds in a loss against the Celtics last Sunday. SF Caron Butler has played well while the Clippers were banged up, averaging 14.2 PPG in his past five games, which is a lot higher than his season average of 10.0 PPG. PF Lamar Odom has proven to be a nice fit with the Clippers this season and recently has really helped them in an expanded role. Over the past five games, Odom is playing 24.0 MPG and averaging 4.2 PPG, 5.6 RPG and 2.0 SPG. He is doing a lot of the little things and playing aggressively on defense.
The Heat are riding a three-game winning streak, and they are now a much more dangerous team with SG Dwyane Wade back to playing like his superstar self. Over the past five games, Wade is averaging 22.4 PPG (48.3% FG), 6.0 RPG, 5.0 APG, 2.2 SPG and 1.4 BPG. He looks engaged on both ends and healthy for the first time all season. While Wade has found his game, SF LeBron James has continued to play his. James is shooting an insane 71% FG (34-for-48) during a three-game streak of 30+ points. In these three contests, he has 31.0 PPG, 7.3 RPG and 6.7 APG. He's also 11-for-21 from three-point range and swiping 1.7 SPG over the past six games. James has matured a lot even over the course of this season. He is a career 33.5% three-point shooter, but this season heís making 40.8% from long range. Before falling ill, PF Chris Bosh put together two huge scoring games, averaging 25.5 PPG on 62% FG. But he needs to be more aggressive on the glass, grabbing just 3.8 RPG in 33.3 MPG over his past four contests.