The ESPN double-header on Friday night feature a couple game that are stuffed with teams desperate for wins.
The first is between the Dallas Mavericks at home against the Miami Heat, both teams which need a win to create some separation in the standings. Both Dallas and Miami are two-games-or-less from falling into the play-in tournament.
After that, the Los Angeles Lakers will host the streaking Memphis Grizzlies. The Lakers are sitting all the way down in the 13th seed in the West and desperately need wins to get themselves back in the hunt for the postseason while the Grizzlies want to make their 11-game winning streak into a 12-gamer.
Let’s dive into each game.
Miami Heat vs Dallas Mavericks
Thursday, 1/20 at 5:30pm MST on ESPN in Dallas
The Heat were pressing through a plethora of injuries to many members of their rotation over the early portion of the season, but now they sit at 7-3 in their last ten games with wins over Los Angeles Clippers, Phoenix Suns, a pair of wins against the Bucks and their most recent win over the New Orleans Pelicans in dominating fashion. Miami sits in the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference by virtue of tiebreaker over the New York Knicks who have an identical record of 25-21.
With most of their rotation back healthy, the Heat have looked like a more formidable team even if they still have clear issues. Their shooting is not a problem that is going to go away which dramatically hurts their postseason chances. That being said, if they can score like they have over the past couple weeks — the main reason for their improved play as of late — their potential jumps up substantially.
Dallas on the other hand has big postseason aspirations, but the injury bug is just now hitting them. Luka Doncic, who is not on the injury report for this matchup, has been banged up and will be taking on the Heat without Christian Wood and Maxi Kleber. Without Wood, Dallas is missing their second-best player and most dynamic offensive player outside of Doncic. Winning without him will be tough and, with a record of 24-22, every win is precious in a crowded Western Conference.
Dallas is just a couple losses outside of the dreaded play-in tournament. Grabbing a win over the Heat would help give Dallas the breathing room they need in the standings.
- Miami is a two-point favorite despite being on the road in Dallas according to DraftKings Sportsbook.
- The point total of 218 on DraftKings Sportsbook seems high for these two squads.
Memphis Grizzlies vs Los Angeles Lakers
Thursday, 1/5 at 8pm MST on ESPN in Los Angeles
While hope remains that the Lakers can drag themselves into the play-in tournament, it is becoming increasingly apparent that the Lakers hopes for a season above .500 are dwindling fast. They are 20-25 entering their battle with the 31-13 Memphis Grizzlies and, with no real expectation for when Anthony Davis could return from injury, Los Angeles will not be full strength anytime soon.
Can the Lakers sneak into the play-in tournament and possibly force their way into the first round of the playoffs? Absolutely, but that does not mean they would be a worrisome opponent once they got that far. In any first-round playoff matchup, the Lakers would be dramatic underdogs after their rough season so far. But before that, they have to overcome a two-game deficit between them and the 10th seed in the West for that final play-in tournament slot.
Taking on the dominant Grizzlies will be a tough game as the Lakers look to right the ship. Memphis has won 11-straight games heading into this battle with the banged up Lakers and show no signs of slowing down.
- The Grizzlies being just six-point favorites on DraftKings Sportsbook is baffling to me. They are far and away better than the Lakers and should get a sizable road win.
- That being said, the point total being 243 at DraftKings Sportsbook seems incredibly high.