In the ESPN opener, Heat-Mavericks features two middle class teams trying to find their way in their respective conferences. After winning eight of nine games, Dallas has lost five of six with a rash of injuries wreaking havoc to their front court. Dorian Finney-Smith returned on Wednesday after nearly a month dealing with a right abductor strain, but yesterday, Christian Wood was diagnosed with a fractured left thumb. Of course, the Mavs will still have MVP candidate Luka Doncic at home in American Airlines Center. Doncic is leading the league in scoring at 33.7 points per game and he’ll most likely have Jimmy Butler to deal with. Jimmy Buckets and the Heat have won nine of thirteen, including back-to-back wins against the Milwaukee Bucks last week and a thrashing of the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday. Their starting five of Butler, Kyle Lowry, Caleb Martin, Tyler Herro, and Bam Adebayo sports a net rating of 11.1 (114.7 offensive rating, 103.7 defensive rating) and are finally back together again.
The night cap represents the changing of the guard in the west. The young Memphis Grizzlies have a chance to take hold of the #1 seed in the conference visiting the Los Angeles Lakers. Their eleven-game winning streak has coincided with the return of Desmond Bane and fueled by the best defense in the league. They’re not just the highlight factory that is Ja Morant (more on him later); Jaren Jackson and Steven Adams make them nasty. The Grind City kids enter Crypto Arena with the home team reeling. The Lakers have admirably weathered the absence of Anthony Davis (8-9), but a string of heartbreaking losses including a backbreaker against the Kings on Wednesday, a one-point loss vs. Philly on Sunday, and a double overtime whammy in Dallas have currently seeded LA #13 in the West. With the trade deadline looming, will Jeanie Buss and Rob Pelinka waste a dominant LeBron James season?
With the Mavericks banged up, the Heat come to Dallas as slight one-point favorites on the road. The Lakers are also home dogs at 6.5 points hosting the surging Grizzlies in prime time PST.
You don’t have to just bet on games though. Our friends at DraftKings have a bunch of player props to hit too and right now, there isn’t a more exciting player than Ja Morant. Case in point:
EVERY ANGLE OF JA MORANT'S UNBELIEVABLE DUNK OF THE YEAR CANDIDATE ️ pic.twitter.com/8u1j6ZNH3F— NBA (@NBA) January 15, 2023
Now, in the box score, that dunk counts as just two points. They’re just a little louder. For the season, Morant is averaging 27.4 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 7.9 assists a game and against the Lakers, DraftKings has his over/under on the total of points, rebounds, and assists combined right at 40.5 (-125/-105). National television audience? Hollywood crowd in the floor seats? A chance at the #1 seed? Prediction: it’s going to get plenty loud at Crypto tonight.
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