The pick: Heat 100-87
I feel that siding with the favorites is the way to go early in the season, especially a dynastic team that has looked very average to start their season. They struggled to guard Michael Carter-Williams (22 points, seven rebounds, 12 assists, and nine steals), but I expect that to change as they face a banged up point guard that “can’t jump higher than Jason [Kidd] right now” in Deron Williams that they have plenty of film on. They also allowed an injured Joakim Noah to grab 11 rebounds, an issue I don’t expect to be evident against a scoring (not rebounding) oriented big man in Brook Lopez.
More importantly, however, the Heat will view this game as important. I know it shouldn’t be the case for a team chasing greatness, but the Heat have a tendency to take days off, and that’s exactly what I think they did Wednesday night in Philadelphia on the second night of a back-to-back. A Friday night game that is being nationally televised and is against an Eastern Conference threat is the type of game these Heat win and win big. I’m expecting a big scoring night from Lopez, but the Nets figure to struggle the transition game of the Heat, thus leaving them susceptible to the big quarter (despite have a point differential of only +8, Miami has already rolled off three 35-plus point quarters in which they outscore their opponent by an average of 15.7 points).
The Pick: Spurs 103-90
I’m not sure if it needs to be said, but I’m not buying the Lakers as a playoff threat. They simply don’t have enough NBA talent. Yes, I know they looked the part in a rivalry game against the Clippers on opening night, but that should prove to be the exception to the rule as the season progresses. The Spurs will slow down the frantic Lakers attack, much like they’ve been doing for years, and have the ability to be remarkably efficient on the offensive end. Consider this: They beat the Memphis Grizzlies by seven points and scored 101 points (83 in the final three quarters) against a vaunted defense in a game in which Tim Duncan and Tony Parker combined to shoot 20 percent and score 16 points. Much like the Lakers, San Antonio has a bench that can get hot from distance, but the difference is that they will not rely on that. Kawhi Leonard is on the brink of being a star, and I don’t see a single Laker that has a chance at challenging him at either end of the court. Tiago Splitter is another tough matchup for the Lakers, as he is a young aggressive big with massive potential.
When it comes to the Lakers, we saw what happens when the shots aren’t falling at an absolute insane rate. They managed to knock down 44.4 percent of their three pointers against the Golden State Warriors (still a very solid effort), but they “only” made eight threes (after making 14 against the Clippers) and were blown out by 31 points. I expect the Spurs to have the decided edge in the paint, and with an elite defender like Leonard matching up with whoever has the hot hand, I don’t see the Lakers approaching triple digits tonight, giving them little chance to cover in this one.
Soppe Record ATS: 2-3