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2012 NBA on TNT Picks: New York Knicks @ Miami Heat Odds and Predictions – Free NBA Picks 2/23/2012

NBA Betting – New York Knicks @ Miami Heat Odds, Free Picks and Predictions – NBA Picks and Odds 2/23/12: Last year, the Miami Heat was the biggest story in the NBA. This year, the New York Knicks are quickly becoming the same, as the meteoric rise of point guard Jeremy Lin has captured the attention of the sport’s universe and propelled the Knicks (17-17) back into playoff contention. Needless to say, all eyes will be focused on both teams when they meet Thursday night in South Beach as part of TNT’s national telecast. Lin may be making the headlines, but the Heat (26-7) has the best record in the Eastern Conference. Miami is also 14-2 at home and a 9 ½-point favorite Thursday night.

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New York is 8-2 since Lin took over as starting point guard, and while his scoring has added an extra dimension to the Knicks’ offense, it has been his ability to distribute the ball and keep his teammates involved that has made the biggest difference. Granted, there could be some growing pains as Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire are both healthy for the first since Lin has been running the show, but the more important question is how the new-look Knicks will perform on a big stage. It doesn’t get much bigger than Thursday night’s game between two long-time, bitter rivals.

The two teams met in Miami once already, with the Heat emerging with a 10-point win. In that game Miami’s LeBron James and Dwyane Wade decimated the Knicks’ normally stout defense, combining for 59 points. Meanwhile, New York attempted 43 3-pointers, abandoning any type of set offense. A 3-point fest probably isn’t going to happen this time around with Lin running the show, but that being said, New York still has to find a way to slow down the Miami offense that is leading the NBA in scoring and field goal percentage this season.

James and Wade will once again be the focal point of the Miami offense. The duo is the Heat’s main source of offense every game, but both players have particularly strong matchups against New York. Anthony and Stoudemire are prolific scorers for the Knicks, but neither is known for their defense. Center Tyson Chandler has been able to mask the team’s defense inefficiencies with his shot-blocking ability at the rim, but James and Wade are such solid finishers, that Chandler isn’t able to compensate. Lin doesn’t add much on the defense either, and his propensity for turning the ball over should give the Heat plenty of transition scoring opportunities, as well.

With Miami likely to control the pace of the game with its high-powered offense, New York is going to have to try to keep pace. Lin will help in that area, as will the addition of shooting guard J.R. Smith. Smith is one of the best perimeter shooters in the NBA, and he opted to sign with the Knicks after his contract in China expired. Unlike the first meeting between the two teams when the Knicks simply jacked up 3-pointers at an inefficient rate, Smith and Lin can make their perimeter shots count. A more balanced attack for the Knicks should lead to more points on the scoreboard.

“Linsanity” may be sweeping the country right now, but he and the Knicks could be in for a rude awakening. There is no doubt the Knicks’ new point guard has made them a playoff-caliber team. However, the Heat has separated itself from everyone but Chicago in the Eastern Conference. More importantly, the Knicks match up poorly on the defensive end with the Heat’s best scorers. If Thursday’s game was in New York, the Knicks might have a shot at the upset. In South Beach, the Miami offense will overwhelm the Knicks for the second time this season.

Prediction: Miami Heat (-9 ½) Covers the Spread

Current Odds: Favorite – Miami -9 Total – OVER/UNDER 201.5

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