The Miami Heat possess a respectable 36-33 record and are currently in the Eastern Conference’s final playoff position. However, they have an ugly nine-game losing streak in road games that they’ll hope to end against the 31-37 Los Angeles Lakers today (10:30 p.m. ET Friday on NBA TV).
Miami is nearly a lock to make the postseason, but the team still needs a handful more wins before it can secure a spot. Recently, the Heat have struggled a bit, with 12 losses in their last 19 games. Injury issues have certainly played a part.
Los Angeles is most definitely the hotter team in this matchup. Since January 7, the Lakers have won 20 of their 30 games and have been above average on both ends of the floor. Julius Randle has led the charge for Los Angeles, but almost everybody else on the roster has picked up their game, too.
So will the team with the better record or the team with better recent performances win this contest? It should be a tightly contested one. We’ll preview those issues and then make our Miami Heat vs LA Lakers predictions and betting picks in the hope of getting the better of the online betting firms for USA customers.
Which Injury-Plagued Bench Will Play Better?
The Lakers and Heat both have solid benches when everybody is healthy. However, Los Angeles will have Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, Channing Frye and possibly Kyle Kuzma missing on Friday, and the Heat will be without Hassan Whiteside, Josh Richardson, Dwyane Wade and Dion Waiters. Those are some significant losses on both sides.
Each squad will have to rely on reserves to play big minutes. For the Heat, that will be Justise Winslow, Wayne Ellington, Kelly Olynyk and Rodney McGruder. For the Lakers, Alex Caruso, Travis Wear and Tyler Ennis will need to be good in reserve roles.
On paper, Miami has the advantage here. However, with the Lakers being at home and reserves often faring better in a comfortable locale, that could change.
Can Anybody Get a Handle on Julius Randle?
Randle has become a matchup nightmare for nearly everyone he faces. The Lakers power forward/center is finally realizing his tremendous potential as a face-up big man with elite strength, good quickness and reliable finishing ability.
Since February started, Randle is averaging 21.1 points, 9.2 rebounds and 3.8 assists per contest with a 63.5 true shooting percentage. He has played like an All-Star, quite frankly, though nobody would have confused him with an All-Star at the beginning of the season.
The Heat could have trouble guarding the young big man. James Johnson, Bam Adebayo and Kelly Olynyk will all get chances at containing him, but none of them are quite as strong as Randle. Sometimes, it seems like an automatic two points when Randle puts his head down and starts his drives with a full head of steam. The Heat can’t let him have that confidence in this game.
Which Team Can Dictate Pace Early On?
It’s never fun for opponents when this Lakers squad gets on one of its fast-paced tears at the Staples Center. The crowd starts to get into it, and the game snowballs into super speed mode where it seems like Los Angeles is making all the right plays.
When the number of possessions in Heat games goes over 104, Miami is 0-3 this season. However, the Lakers are 7-5 in such games.
Miami would much rather this game turns into a slugfest where the Lakers are forced to run pick-and-rolls and post-ups against the Heat’s excellent half-court defense. Miami has several plus defenders in its rotation, even with all the injuries.
Our Preview’s Miami Heat at Los Angeles Lakers Betting Picks & Predictions
The Heat may not be a good road team, but they’ll be eager to redeem themselves after an embarrassing overtime loss to the tanking Kings on Wednesday. Miami took its foot off the gas pedal for too long in that game, but the team is well-coached and will know not to do that again in Los Angeles.
The Lakers’ bench is also quite shallow with all the injuries, even compared to the Heat. Expect Miami’s reserves to win the battle against their counterparts. The sportsbooks have not yet published their betting lines on this game. However we are expecting that the Lakers will be 3.5-point favorites on the spread while the total points mark set by the bookies should be around 214pts. Our preview’s Miami Heat vs LA Lakers predictions are:
- If our expectations are accurate then put your money on the Heat +3.5pts @ around -110 with one of the top betting sites, such as Bovada or Intertops.
- Miami will come out executing its game plan after Wednesday’s performance, and that game plan will include playing excellent transition defense and staying patient and careful on offense. Expect this game to go under the anticipated 214 – 215 points total.
Jared is a lifelong sports fan and writer whose specialist subject is NBA. A 2015 graduate of Indiana Wesleyan University, with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, Jared has been a sought-after freelance sports writer. In addition to his valuable USA Betting contributions, he has also written for other top media outlets.