ESPN Game Previews: Heat look to make statement against Bucks

Detroit Bad Boys

Marquee teams are suiting up for less-than-marquee matchups tonight. We have a Milwaukee Bucks team without Giannis Antetokounmpo at 7:30 p.m. and a Phoenix Suns team without Kevin Durant at 10 p.m. While the wattage might be a bit dimmed, it should make the games even more competitive and, hopefully entertaining.

The Bucks will face a Miami Heat team that is coming off of losses to the Nets and Bucks, and sitting a half-game behind the New York Knicks for sixth in the Eastern Conference. With new addition Kevin Love on board, the Heat are hoping they can carve out a clear path into the top six and prove themselves to be more than first-round fodder in the playoffs.

The Suns are still loaded as Devin Booker, Chris Paul and Deandre Ayton are all available, but the OKC Thunder are a team that is liable to give any squad fits with its athleticism, its tenacious defense and its superstar Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

Miami Heat vs. Milwaukee Bucks

Game Vitals

When: 7:30 p.m. ET
Where: Fiserv Forum, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Watch: ESPN
Odds: Heat +1

Projected Lineups

Miami Heat (32-27)

Gabe Vincent, Tyler Herro, Caleb Martin, Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo

Milwaukee Bucks (41-17)

Jrue Holiday, Grayson Allen, Khris Middleton, Bobby Portis, Brook Lopez

OKC Thunder vs. Phoenix Suns

Game Vitals

When: 10 p.m. ET
Where: Footprint Center, Phoenix, Arizona
Watch: ESPN
Odds: Thunder +8.5

Projected Lineups

OKC Thunder (28-30)

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Josh Giddy, Lu Dort, Jalen Williams, Jaylin Williams

Phoenix Suns (32-28)

Chris Paul, Devin Booker, Josh Okogie, Torrey Craig, Deandre Ayton

DraftKings Odds

It’s not often I like the point spread of both ESPN games, but the DraftKings Odds are mighty appealing tonight. I am trying to train myself to not be a Heat hater because its come back to bite me so often in the past, but I consider this more of an endorsement of how dangerous the Bucks are even without Giannis. Now, I will admit that the Bucks lost to Miami in consecutive games without Giannis in mid-January. I consider tonight a chance for some welcome revenge.

The Thunder getting 8.5 points against a Suns team still without Kevin Durant seems mildly perplexing. Shai is listed as questionable with an ankle injury, and I suppose that accounts for the point spread. But his coach is indicating Shai will play, and if he does, give me the points. The Suns are just 2-2 since the big trade, and KD isn’t dressing yet. TJ Warren and Terrence Ross do not make up for the loss of Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnnson, I’m sorry.

Since talking about point spreads is a bit boring, I’ll just carve out some space to vent. Jaden Ivey is currently +6000 for Rookie of the year. That is trailing Walker Kessler(!!!) who sits at +3000 and the duo who have been there all season — Bennedict Mathurin +800 and Paolo Banchero at -1000.

I was a Mathurin guy leading into the draft, but the lack of recognition of the improvement Ivey has made throughout the season is starting to drive me crazy. This should be a close race, and it’s not only because of pre-established narratives that were cast in early December.

Check out DraftKings Sportsbook, the official sportsbook partner of SB Nation.

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