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ESPN Doubleheader: Miami Heat vs Milwaukee Bucks & Oklahoma City Thunder vs Phoenix Suns

3 teams will look to start rounding into playoff shape. The other finds themselves at a crossroad.

NBA: Miami Heat at Milwaukee Bucks Michael McLoone-USA TODAY Sports

With a little over 20 games left for each team before the playoffs, teams that see themselves as contenders will look to start peaking as the postseason approaches. For Milwaukee, injuries and an overall lack of depth led to inconsistent play at the start of the season. Having won 10 games in a row, and with most of their team now fully healthy, they look like the team we expected would be in contention for the Eastern Conference crown. Miami, despite a clunky and awkward offense, have continued to grind out improbable wins despite lacking top end talent.

Of course, we know Jimmy Butler will morph into an absolute monster once the playoffs start but their lack of spacing around him has caused fans to wonder whether they deserve to be mentioned amongst the elite. Enter Kevin Love. They are few teams in the league that can afford to play Love consistent minutes and field a competent defense. With arguably the most versatile defender in the league (Bam Adebayo) playing next to Love, the Heat should be able to maximize whatever Love has left in the tank.

For Phoenix, they will have 20 or so games to incorporate one of the best players in the world into a team that has looked lifeless. The talent is there. The wing depth may not be but as rotations shorten in the postseason, the Suns should have enough to win it all. With Devin Booker, Chris Paul, and Kevin Durant set to take center stage, the Sun’s championship aspirations may rely on the play of DeAndre Ayton. Statistically, Ayton is one of the league’s worst rim protectors and has played a particularly brutal brand of uninspired basketball. His long term aspirations are probably somewhere other than Phoenix but he should capitalize on the opportunity that stands before him and raise his level of play. For OKC, they are a game outside of the play-in and you have to wonder what direction the team will go in. They’re too far from the bottom to tank but Sam Presti may prioritize ping pong balls over getting valuable playoff experience for his young core. It will be fascinating to watch how they approach tonight’s game.

DraftKings Odds: Miami Heat at Milwaukee 76ers

With Gianni’s status up in the air, it’s hard to feel too strongly about one side over the other. This has all the makings of a defensive battle. If Giannis sits, I feel much better about this play. I think Love will eventually have an impact in Miami but expecting him to be a difference maker in his debut may be asking too much.

DraftKings Odds: Oklahoma City Thunder at Phoenix Suns

  • Oklahoma City Thunder +7 (-115)
  • Phoenix Suns -7 (-105)
  • Over/Under 231 (-110)

The Suns, 7-3, have a better record in their last 10 games than the Thunder but i trust the OKC offense more. The Suns would be wise to limit CP3’s minutes as much as possible so the offensive burden will likely fall to Devin Booker and DeAndre Ayton. That should be enough to win them the game but I’m not sure I’m willing to lay the 7 points. I believe the Thunder cover and have a decent chance to win outright.

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