Miami Heat at New York Knicks (+8, 196)
The last thing the stumbling New York Knicks need is a distraction - but they have one looming as they prepare to host the Miami Heat on Thursday evening. The Knicks are reportedly looking to deal enigmatic guard J.R. Smith following his latest discretion - untying Greg Monroe's shoe during New York's 89-85 win over Detroit and earning a $50,000 fine in the process. The Knicks will have their hands full with a Heat team looking to build on its three-game winning streak.
While the Knicks continue their slow implosion in a year when a top-4 seed in the East is up for grabs, the Heat are rolling along in what looks more than ever like a showdown with the Indiana Pacers in the conference finals. The two-time defending NBA champions steamrolled the New Orleans Hornets 107-88 on Tuesday night to improve to 3-1 in the new year. Not even home-court advantage is on the side of the Knicks, who are 5-12 at Madison Square Garden.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, TNT
COVERS POWER RANKINGS: Miami (-14.5) - New York (-4) + home court (-3) = Miami -7.5
ABOUT THE HEAT (27-8, 16-19 ATS): Miami has long been known for using a small-ball lineup, but head coach Erik Spoelstra isn't afraid to clog the paint. With Chris Bosh and Chris Andersen in at the same time, the Heat limited New Orleans to one offensive rebound over the final 24 minutes of the rout. "It wouldn't be as effective now if (Bosh) hasn't had the evolution that he's had," Spoelstra told the Miami Herald. "He knows how to play on the perimeter now, he knows how to play with another big that doesn't compromise our spacing and he can still get to the rim."
ABOUT THE KNICKS (12-22, 14-20 ATS): Smith's tumultuous tenure with the Knicks appears to be coming to an end following his shenanigans against the Pistons. Head coach Mike Woodson referred to Smith's tactics as "unacceptable" in an interview on an ESPN New York radio show. "I'm not happy about this, because he was warned, he comes back and he makes the same mistake, and it's not right," Woodson said. "It's just got to stop. I keep saying this every time something pops up, but it's got to stop."
* Under is 7-0 in the last seven meetings in New York.
* Favorite is 8-3 ATS in the last 11 meetings.
* Knicks are 4-0 ATS in their last four games overall.
* Over is 9-2 in Heat last 11 vs. NBA Atlantic.
1. New York has won four of the previous six meetings, while the road team has prevailed in three straight.
2. Bosh averages 20.3 points and 8.7 rebounds in 36 career games against the Knicks.
3. Miami is 21-5 when scoring 100 or more points, while New York is just 7-5.
Oklahoma City Thunder at Denver Nuggets (+3.5, 210)
Durant is doing his part to make up for the loss of Russell Westbrook
but the Oklahoma City Thunder are still finding it more difficult to
win. The Thunder will look to bounce back from a tough loss when they
visit the red-hot Denver Nuggets on Thursday. Durant put up an NBA
season-high 48 points at Minnesota on Saturday and matched that number
at Utah on Tuesday, but Oklahoma City only got the win in one of those
The Thunder won their first two after Westbrook went
down but dropped three of the next five, including the 112-101 loss at
Utah on Tuesday in which they were burned down the stretch by Gordon
Hayward. “That’s not how we play,” coach Scott Brooks said of the poor
defensive effort. “That’s not what makes us successful. I knew the guys
were going to battle back and make a game out of it. We had a chance to
cut it to two or three but our defense gave up 58 percent shooting.”
Oklahoma City will need to tighten things up against a Nuggets squad
averaging 125.7 points during a three-game winning streak.
TV: 10:30 p.m. ET, TNT
COVERS POWER RANKINGS:
ABOUT THE THUNDER (27-8, 19-16 ATS): Durant
has gone for 33 or more points in five of the seven games since
Westbrook went out with a knee injury and Reggie Jackson is producing in
the point guard spot but the absence of Serge Ibaka (flu-like symptoms)
on Tuesday hurt the defense. “(I want to see) toughness and even more
toughness and some fight,” Durant said. “We just have to stay together.
We lost a basketball game on the road. It’s not the end of the world. …
We just have to regroup and be better next game.” Oklahoma City had won
eight in a row on the road before falling to the Jazz.
ABOUT THE NUGGETS (17-17, 15-19 ATS):
Denver cleared the air with a series of meetings around the New Year
and is surging in the last three games. The Nuggets destroyed the Boston
Celtics 129-98 on Tuesday after putting up 137 points on the Los
Angeles Lakers in the previous contest. “Coach let us hoop,” forward
Kenneth Faried said of the difference the last few games. “He just let
us get out and play. He figured out that this altitude (in Denver) is a
killer for teams and the personnel that we have is people who will get
out and run, play great defense, and it’s fun when we do that instead of
just calling plays all the time.”
* Under is 6-1-1 in the last eight meetings in Denver.
* Thunder are 1-4 ATS in the last five meetings.
* Over is 4-0 in Nuggets last four overall.
* Thunder are 5-1 ATS in their last six games following a S.U. loss.
1. The Thunder won in Denver 105-93 on Dec. 17 and have taken each of the first two meetings this season.
2. Faried is averaging 18 points on 69 percent shooting over the past three games.
3. Oklahoma City G Thabo Sefolosha is dealing with a finger injury and is just 5-for-22 from the field in the last three games.