Knicks & Heat Lose Close Ones; $300 Freeroll Tonight

MIA @ POR: Where to begin? Nicolas Batum (28 PTS, 7 REB, 5 AST, 2 STL) was great, and LaMarcus Aldridge (20 PTS, 15 REB) shook off a sore wrist to play 42 minutes. Wesley Matthews (18) hit three more 3-pointers and while Damian Lillard (10 PTS, 8 AST) has had better games statistically, he was the best PG on the floor. Despite a near triple-double, LeBron James (15 PTS, 10 REB, 9 AST) shot 6-for-16 and his streak of scoring 20+ ends at 33 games. Chris Bosh (29 PTS, 4 REB, 4 BLK) was the best Miami player, as Dwyane Wade (18) also struggled to find his shot against the Blazers, who have won nine straight at home and 12 of their last 15.

January 11 Games

CHA @ TOR: There are no easy games for the Bobcats. Most of their scoring comes from the guards; up front they have 20-year-old Bismack Biyombo and a revolving door of mediocre PF. That means Amir Johnson and Ed Davis could have big nights for the Raptors, who have held opponents to 87.3 points per game while winning nine of their last 12. It’s no coincidence that Andrea Bargnani (the Italian statue) has been sidelined with a sore elbow during that stretch. If you wrote off Landry Fields earlier in the year, think again. His elbow surgery corrected a nerve problem that was curling up his fingers, and he’s now locked in as the starting SF. Nothing is wrong with Kyle Lowry, who played less than 17 minutes last game. It was just that Jose Calderon (14 PTS, 11 AST) was doing such a good job.

UTA @ ATL: In a bit of a slump with four straight losses, the Hawks will probably stick with their ‘big’ lineup, which leaves Josh Smith at SF and the focal point of the offense. Meanwhile, the Jazz — usually a poor road team — have won three of their last five away from home. Use Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap, but keep an eye on sophomore Alec Burks, who is getting more minutes (and more responsibility) every game.

HOU @ BOS: Don’t look now, but the Celtics have clamped down on defense and won four straight. Rookie PF Jared Sullinger is coming off his best game as a pro, and the return of Avery Bradley has added to that pressure D, while letting Jason Terry go back to his preferred role as gunner off the bench. I love the Rockets, especially at home, but their high-powered attack occasionally sputters on the road.

PHO @ BRK: These teams are going in opposite directions. Phoenix has lost 11 straight on the road, and Brooklyn is 6-1 since coach P.J. Carlesimo took over for Avery Johnson. A rejuvenated Deron Williams is averaging 20 points in four January games, and while Reggie Evans contributes nothing offensively, he grabbed 23 rebounds last game. The only reason not to load up on Nets tonight is the probability of garbage time limiting the starters’ minutes.

DET @ MIL: The only thing that’s changed under new coach Jim Boylan is a commitment to Ersan Ilyasova as the #1 PF. The entire team does seem to be fired up, with two impressive wins. Larry Sanders is playing well enough to neutralize Greg Monroe, and Brandon Jennings has been fantastic, with 64 points in that back-to-back. If making such wagers, I’d consider parlaying the Bucks and the over.

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