NBA picks: Heat vs. Bucks, Lakers vs. Rockets

Profile Picture: Dan Halverson

September 8th, 2020

The Eastern and Western Conference's top seeds both take the court again on Tuesday, each of them facing tremendous opposition in their quest to reach the NBA Finals. Will the cream rise to the top against upstart challengers, or are upsets in the making?

Miami Heat vs. Milwaukee Bucks

Tue, September 8 2020, 10:30 PM

Milwaukee Bucks






O 216

Miami Heat






U 216

The Bucks were on the ropes against the Miami Heat, falling to 0-3 in the series and 0-3 ATS before heading into Game 4. In that game, All-Star Giannis Antetokounmpo re-injured his ankle, forcing him to exit and never return. His status for Game 5 is uncertain, but it's hard to imagine the Bucks would force him to play given his importance to the franchise in the longterm.

Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer has taken heat in this series for playing his two All-Stars, Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton, less minutes than they presumably deserve.  And while he changed course for Middleton in Game 4 playing him 48 minutes, he likely has orders to keep Giannis under close watch moving forward.

No NBA team has ever come back to win a series from down 0-3, and further injuring a franchise player by forcing him to play in what appears to be a lost cause is a quick way to run him straight out of town.

The Heat were underdogs in the first three games of this series, then found themselves as favorites in Game 4. They enter Game 5 as 3.5-point favorites and while it’s hard to stomach such a big point swing in spreads from Game 3 to Game 5 with no change in venue, the Heat have really dominated this series.

Multiple Heat players admitted they took their foot off the gas when Giannis left in Game 4, but even despite that they had the lead late and will presumably step things back up in Game 5.

NBA pick: Heat moneyline and spread

Los Angeles Lakers vs. Houston Rockets

Los Angeles Lakers
O 222.5
Houston Rockets
U 222.5

The Lakers and Rockets series is tied at 1-1 after the Lakers shut down the Rockets offense in the fourth quarter of Game 2, limiting the sharpshooting underdogs to just 17 points in the decisive quarter. The Lakers had gotten out to a big lead in Game 2 before seeing it completely dissolve and giving up 72 points in the second and third quarters combined.

Ultimately the deciding factor in the game was Rockets’ guard, Russell Westbrook, who continued his ineffective ways, forcing up shots that the Lakers willingly gave him. Westbrook shot just 4-of-15 from the field and was a -14 overall. Meanwhile, his hugely efficient counterpart, James Harden, took just 12 shots, scoring 27 points (to Westbrook’s 10).

This is serious mismanagement by the Rockets, and both Harden and Mike D’Antoni have to do better in leadership roles if they want to knock off the Lakers. Westbrook said after the game he was just running around and needs to watch film, but what he really needs to do is pass the ball more. He plays on a team full of shooters and had just four assists.

That being said, the Lakers and Frank Vogel are clearly being out-witted from a strategy perspective. Replace Westbrook with a more efficient player and the Rockets are up 2-0 right now. With JaVale McGee exiting with an ankle injury and Dwight Howard not playing at all, the Lakers have forfeited their size advantage to try and match up with the Rockets’ shooters rather than forcing the Rockets to combat their overwhelming size at the other end of the court.

The Rockets ultimately need better play from Westbrook, but the rest of the Rockets roster is playing incredible basketball so far this series and they should help Houston secure another win tonight.

NBA pick: Rockets +5