Thunder vs heat preview

Oklahoma City Thunder at Miami Heat (-4, 204) Kevin Durant's recent scoring barrage has moved him front and center in the race for the NBA's most valuable player award. On Wednesday Durant will come face-to-face with the greatest challenge to his MVP quest as he leads the Oklahoma City Thunder into Miami to face LeBron James and the powerhouse Heat.

Durant has scored 30 or more points in 11 straight games, the main catalyst behind the Thunder's eight-game winning streak. Durant is on the fast track to his fourth NBA scoring title, but faces one of his toughest assignments of the year – tasked with scoring on, and defending, the four-time league MVP and two-time defending NBA champion. James' numbers have taken a tumble in recent years, but he remains the most productive player on a team that sits second in the Eastern Conference. James will have help, too, as Dwyane Wade returns to the starting lineup.

LINE HISTORY:

Miami opened -4. 5 and was bet down to -4. The total opened 204 in Las Vegas and was bet down to 203. 5.

POWER RANKINGS:

Thunder (-12. 5) – Heat (-14. 3) + Home Court (-3. 0) = Heat -4. 8

KEY INJURIES:

Thunder: Russell Westbrook (Out – knee), Heat: Dwyane Wade (Probable – knee)

WHAT BOOKS SAY:

"Most of the main rival teams at the top – Indiana, San Antonio, L. A. Clippers – would be +5 and bigger in Miami, but Oklahoma City and Durant are getting respect for how they are playing without Westbrook. Even though Durant is getting all the accolades for his recent play, and rightfully so – hes the current MVP frontrunner, the Thunder have the inside matchup edge with Perkins and Ibaka, plus Collison and Adams off the bench. " – Aron Black, Bet365. com.

WHAT SHARPS SAY:

"A bit surprising that Thunder actually have a better record right now than the Heat, despite playing with Russell Westbrook for the past 18 games. What has been most impressive to me is that OKC is 4-1 SU in their five games as an underdog without Westbrook during those past 18 games, meaning they have played very well against quality teams, even while short-handed. "

Thunder Dancers or Heat Dancers?

 

WHY BET THE THUNDER (36-10 SU, 27-19 ATS, 22-24 O/U):

Durant isn't just shooting his way to superstardom – he's thinking his way around defensive schemes designed to shut him down. Durant hit the game-winning shot in Monday's narrow victory over the Atlanta Hawks, and said afterward that he was successful because he had seen the game-ending defensive setup before. "This is the third team we played that's been under that San Antonio umbrella, " he said of the Hawks' approach. "They brought that (double-team). And they were bold enough to do it in the fourth quarter. " Durant averages 29. 3 points in 12 career games against the Heat.

WHY BET THE HEAT (32-12 SU, 19-25 ATS, 27-17 O/U):

Wade was given the green light to join the starting five after coming off the bench in Sunday's one-sided win over the San Antonio Spurs. Wade, who scored eight points in 24 minutes in a reserve role, relishes the challenge of facing the team with the best record in the West. "I asked (head coach Eric Spoelstra) to take me out as a starter that one game, but I didn't ask him to do it the whole year, " Wade told reporters Monday. "So we can stop that conversation. " Miami is an Eastern Conference-best 12-2 against West foes.

TRENDS: * Favorite is 4-1 ATS in the last five meetings.

* Home team is 4-1 ATS in the last five meetings.

* Thunder are 0-6 ATS in the last six meetings.

* Thunder are 0-5 ATS in the last five meetings in Miami. CONSENSUS PICK:

54 % on Oklahoma City +4, 75 % on Over 204.

 

NFL Prediction Playoff Game Preview/Pick- San Diego vs. Denver

nfl pick chargers vs broncos

AFC DIVISIONAL PLAYOFF

 

San Diego Chargers (9-7, 4-4 away) @ Denver Broncos (13-3, 7-1 home) 01/12- 4:40PM EST

 

Line: DEN -9.0

Over/Under: 54.5

 

The San Diego Chargers will travel into the Mile High city on Sunday evening feeling pretty good about themselves after last week’s road win and going against a Broncos team they defeated earlier on the road as well.

 

The Chargers (10-7) beat Denver 27-20 back on December 12 behind running back Ryan Mathews 127 rushing yards and holding the high-powered offense of the Broncos to their season-low in points. Denver had outscored their opponents by an average of 20.4 points a game winning seven in a row at home before their loss to the Chargers.

 

Beating them again may prove to a tougher challenge with the Broncos being healthier this time around.

 

It’s tough to say you’re confident knowing what you’re going against. You don’t wan to take that the wrong way,” San Diego Pro Bowl safety Eric Weddle said.

 

“….. We have been the underdog all year. We are out to continue to believe in ourselves.”

 

Denver (12-4) averaged a whopping 37.9 points per game during the season and were held to under 30 points in only three games, but two of those came at the hands of the Chargers… a 28-20 win and 27-20 loss.

 

It taught us a lesson,” tight end Jacob Tamme said of last month’s loss. “We did kind of reboot after that and yes, I think we know that we need to play our best ball going forward and that’s what we are planning on doing.”

 

This Sunday’s game will mark a year since the Broncos lost to eventual Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens 38-35 in double overtime, a game that the Ravens had tied with just 31 clicks on the clock.

 

You don’t harp on the first time you fell off your bike, but you remember falling off and you know you don’t want to do it again,” tight end Julius Thomas said.

 

San Diego is hot having won their last four regular-season games and then last week’s wild-card win at Cincinnati, despite Philip Rivers completing 12 of 16 for a season-low 128 with one touchdown and no turnovers, but he will need a better game if they want to leave Denver with a win.

 

Going on the road in a playoff game is not going to be easy, regardless of who you’re playing,” San Diego coach Mike McCoy said.

 

The Chargers will try to keep their running game going were last week they ran wild on the Bengals accounting for a season-high 196 yards and are averaging 170.2 yards during their five-game winning streak. San Diego is 10-2 when they run for better than 102 yards a game and are 0-5 when they fail to reach that mark, but their top rushing producer Mathew is questionable for Sunday’s contest after suffering an ankle injury.

 

As for the Broncos… what more can we say about the year Peyton Manning has had setting an NFL-record for a single-season with 5,477 passing yards and 55 passes for paydirt, and will have his full core of receivers available to target including Wes Walker who’s been out action with a concussion he suffered back on Dec 8 against Tennessee. Walker still finished in the league with 18 receptions in the red zone.

 

Wes brings a lot to this offense and we’re excited to have him back,” said teammate Demaryius Thomas, who finished second in the NFL with 14 touchdown receptions.

 

Manning has lost his last three postseason games to the Chargers and is 4-6 overall, but this is a different Denver team and the oddsmakers have made the home Broncos a big (minus -9.0) point favorite on Sunday, but get the latest odds up until game time right here at Wonder Punter.

 

Philip Rivers has a 99.1 QB rating and is 6-2 all-time in Denver and will be looking for another week of magic to help his advance.

 

They’re a No. 1 seed for a reason. This is a heck of a team and it’s rare to play an opponent three times in a season and being a division opponent, one we know well, they know us well. It’s going to be awesome,” said Rivers.

 

Do the underdog Chargers have what it takes to win another big game on the road against a healthy Denver Broncos team? Too many weapons I say, prediction… Broncos to advance to next week’s AFC championship game.

 

Prediction/Pick: Denver Broncos

By Mario Martinez- Wonder Punter

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NCAA Prediction Bowl Game Preview/Pick- Cincinnati vs. North Carolina

ncaa prediction and picks

Cincinnati Bearcats (9-3) vs. North Carolina Tar Heels (6-6) 12/28- 3:20PM EST

Line: UNC -2.5

Over/Under: 56.5

Belk BOWL- Charlotte, NC

Two teams that mirrored each other during the season will take the field on Saturday afternoon in the Belk Bowl hoping to end the year on a high note.

 

Cincinnati (9-3) and North Carolina (6-6) both struggled in the early season, then made some midseason changes at quarterback which led to long winning streaks before both teams lost close games to longtime rivals in their regular-season finale.

 

They are a lot like us because they had a slow start and then won a lot of games in the end,” Bearcats coach Tommy Tuberville said. “We are probably a much better team now than we were at the beginning of the year, as they are.”

 

North Carolina coach Larry Fedora said of his team… “This is a resilient bunch of guys that kept believing in one another throughout the year and I’m glad they were rewarded with a bowl game. We’re looking forward to facing a very good Cincinnati team led by an outstanding coach in Tommy Tuberville.”

 

The Bearcats will be making their second consecutive appearance in as many years in the Belk Bowl defeating Duke last year 48-34, and this year are back in it thanks in part to a six-game winning streak during the middle of the season that helped them finish third in the AAC.

 

Quarterback Brendon Kay took over the signal calling for the Bearcats in the second game of the season replacing injured first-stringer Munchie Legaux and responded well throwing for more than 3,000 yards in a season, despite not always being 100 percent healthy.

 

I tell you that kid competed and he did it on one leg. His ankle is so bad. He’s been wanting to play and push through it and it’s been that way for about six weeks and he has only practiced about one or two days a week,” Tuberville said of Kay following his team’s 31-24 loss to then-No. 19 Louisville on December 5.

 

He doesn’t throw the ball much because his shoulders are so banged up but I tell you he is a warrior.”

 

The Tar Heels also made a quarterback change with Marquise Williams taking over for Bryn Renner who suffered a season-ending shoulder injury back on November 2nd. The more mobile Williams generated 14 touchdown passes while also rushing for 531 yards and six scores to lead the Heels.

 

Look for North Carolina’s Eric Ebron, one of the nation’s top tight ends to be a main target as he leads the team in catches with 55 and with yards with 895, as he looks to challenge the Cincinnati defense.

 

I just go there out there and do what I do best,” Ebron told the school’s official website.

 

Ebron is a finalist for the Makey Award which is given to the top tight end in all of college football and has already declared himself eligible for the 2014 NFL draft following the Belk Bowl.

 

North Carolina finds itself in the Belk Bowl by way of a 1-5 start followed by a five game winning streak to become bowl eligible before losing to in-state rival Duke 27-25 to end the regular-season.

 

Coach Fedora is proud of the way his team performed after a horrible start. “I’m excited for our team, especially our seniors, who fought through some early season adversity and won five of the last six games to become bowl eligible.”

 

The Bearcats may have the better record, but the oddsmakers are giving the Tar Heels a slight (minus -2.5) point favorite playing close to home in Charlotte, but get the latest spread on the game up until kickoff right here at Wonder Punter.

 

The Tar Heels are 2-0 all-time against the Bearcats, but I predict Cincinnati, who outscored their opponents by 166 points through the backend of their schedule to continue the trend on Saturday and leave the state of North Carolina with the Belk Bowl trophy.

 

Prediction/Pick: Cincinnati

By Mario Martinez- Wonder Punter

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Blazers hand Pacers second loss of season

Trail Blazers Deal Pacers Second Loss

 

PORTLAND, Ore. – After Portland had withstood a late barrage from the Indiana Pacers and Paul George, the Trail Blazers gathered at midcourt and raised their hands together.

It might be early in the season, but this was a statement win for the Blazers.

LaMarcus Aldridge had 28 points and 10 rebounds, and Portland downed Indiana 106-102 on Monday night, snapping the Pacers' seven-game winning streak. Damian Lillard added 26.

"It was a tough one, and we knew it was going to be a tough one going in," Lillard said. "They're a good team; they only had one loss. But we're a good team, too, and we wanted to prove that."

George had a career-high 43 points for Pacers (16-2), who own the NBA's best record.

The Blazers pulled in front early in the fourth quarter, but the Pacers kept it close and George hit consecutive 3-pointers that narrowed it to 98-96 with 1:37 left. Lillard answered with a 3-pointer, and Nicolas Batum made a pair of free throws for the Blazers before George hit another 3-pointer that got Indiana within 103-99 with 21 seconds to go.

Lillard hit free throws and George made yet another 3 with 10 seconds left to make it 105-102, but the Pacers couldn't get closer. Portland (15-3) is off to its best start since the 1998-99 season.

"I really wanted to get this win," said George, one of just four Indiana players to score 43 or more points in a game since 2000. "I was trying to will us into the game."

Paul George

Sam Forencich/NBAE/Getty Images

The Pacers' Paul George scored 43 points but couldn't save them from their second loss this season.

Both teams were playing the second of a back-to-back. The Blazers beat the short-handed Los Angeles Lakers 114-108, snapping a seven-game losing streak to the Lakers at Staples Center.

The Pacers (16-2) were coming off a 105-100 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday to open a five-game trip.

"They're a great offensive team and they made big shots all game long," Indiana coach Frank Vogel said of Portland. "Hopefully that's what it's going to take to beat this team – making impossible shot after impossible shot."

Earlier Monday, the NBA named Vogel the Eastern Conference coach of the month for November. Portland's Terry Stotts was named coach of the month for the Western Conference.

The Pacers went 15-1 in November and opened the season with a nine-game winning streak for the best start in franchise history. The Blazers went 13-3 under Stotts to start the season, including an 11-game winning streak.

While Stotts acknowledged it was a big win, he stopped short of the whole "statement" thing.

"We played the most complete game from beginning to end: execution, effort, mental focus. All of those things," he said. "But I don't believe you play statement games in December."

George had a 14-foot jumper that gave the Pacers an early 20-11 lead, but the Blazers hung close through the first half. Mo Williams, who helped Portland keep up with seven points, had three fouls and was sent to the bench.

The Blazers finished out the first half with a 9-3 run to get within 46-45 at the break.

Aldridge's dunk pulled Portland within 59-54 midway through the third quarter, but George answered with an 18-foot jumper on the other end for Indiana. Orlando Johnson's 3-pointer extended the lead to 64-56, and it looked as if the Pacers were pulling away.

But Aldridge hit a flat 20-foot jumper and made a free throw, and Joel Freeland dunked to even it at 70. Lillard hit a 3-pointer, and the Blazers took a 75-72 lead, their first of the game. Portland went up 86-78 on Wesley Matthews' 3-pointer to make it 86-78.

Matthews was asked afterward what the win meant. "That we're a pretty damn good team," he replied.

It was Aldridge's 14th game this season with 20 or more points. The two-time All-Star has eight double-doubles this season.

"They're good," Aldridge said. "I just had one of those nights."

Game notes

It was Portland guard Lillard's 100th career game. He is the third NBA player to start his first 100 games… Among those at the game was Portland native Galen Rupp, who won the silver in the 10,000 meters at the London Olympics… Former Blazers coach Nate McMillan is an assistant to Vogel in Indiana… It was just the second time Indiana had given up 100 points this season… The Blazers are 8-0 this season against Eastern Conference teams… Indiana's

David West

reached his 11,000th career point in the second quarter. West, a 10-year veteran, finished with 12 points, eight rebounds and five assists…

George Hill

matched his career high with 11 assists… Pacers starter

Lance Stephenson

fouled out with just less than five minutes left.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press

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