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Thursday NBA Action

Heat and Spurs meet in Miami

Pity the San Antonio Spurs this rest of this week.

It probably sounds ridiculous to pity the team with the most wins in the NBA and which is 5-0 on its current six-game road trip. San Antonio has now won an incredible 29 of its past 33 regular-season road games (9-1 this season, including eight straight wins), the best stretch in the NBA in 16 years.

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But I say pity the Spurs because after easily winning in Orlando on Wednesday they have to face the reigning NBA champion and Eastern Conference's best team, the Miami Heat, on Thursday night in the second of a back-to-back. Things get no easier on Saturday when the Spurs finally return home and play the Memphis Grizzlies, who entered Wednesday with the NBA's best overall winning percentage.

Thursday's Spurs-Heat game on TNT will have live play-by-play betting at the book. San Antonio is winning without starting small forward Kawhi Leonard and key reserve swingman Stephen Jackson. Leonard missed his seventh straight game with a knee problem on Wednesday and definitely won't play Thursday. He is hoping to return Saturday against those Grizzlies. Leonard was averaging 10.6 points and 5.4 rebounds a game. Jackson has been out since Nov. 19 with a fractured finger and is likely a good two weeks from returning. He was averaging 7.7 points and 4.3 rebounds and often guarded the other team's top perimeter scorer.

The Heat are 6-0 at home this year (3-3 ATS) but might be a bit rusty on Thursday as they have been off since a 110-108 escape on Saturday against Cleveland. Miami was down seven with under two minutes left but scored the final nine of the game. The win improved the Heat to 8-0 in "clutch" games this year. Those are defined as games that are within five points either way with five minutes or less remaining.

Starting forward Shane Battier strained his knee in that one and is expected to sit Thursday and perhaps a few more games. Battier is averaging 7.0 points and 2.5 rebounds while shooting 45.8 percent from 3-point range, the best mark of his career. The Heat don't use a typical starting five and Battier really had been in the "power forward" slot. Now likely LeBron James will have to slide there.

The Heat and Spurs were just a few games from meeting in last year's NBA Finals and it's certainly possible they could this year. As it was, the teams met once in the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season. Miami won 120-98 at home. The Spurs led that game by 14 at halftime but allowed Miami to score 71 points on 68 percent shooting after intermission. Hard to read too much from that as neither Miami's Dwyane Wade nor San Antonio's Manu Ginobili played. The Heat are 6.5-point favorites this time around.

The other live betting game Thursday is Denver at Golden State, with the Warriors as 1.5-point home dogs. Golden State has been a pleasant surprise at 8-6 considering the Warriors have had oft-injured center Andrew Bogut for only four games at the start of the season. And it doesn't appear Bogut, whom the Warriors acquired from Milwaukee last March, will be back anytime soon. The team hoped he might be back this weekend from his ankle troubles, but then Bogut revealed he had microfracture surgery on the ankle in April.

There is nothing minor about that surgery, so now Bogut is likely again weeks away from playing, it at all. When asked whether he thought his season might be in jeopardy, Bogut said he believed he will return at some point, but didn't know when. He continues to have soreness and swelling in that surgically repaired left ankle. The Warriors might regret trading Monta Ellis for Bogut, but the team had been desperate for a legitimate center for years.

The Nuggets have had Golden State's number this season. Denver won 107-101 in double-overtime on Nov. 10 in Oakland behind 18 points and 17 rebounds from Kenneth Faried. And last Friday in Denver, the Nuggets won 102-91. Warriors star Stephen Curry was held to just six points. Denver has won at least two games against Golden State in nine of the past 10 seasons.

On Friday, the book offers live betting on Wizards at Knicks and Nuggets at Lakers.

Could Washington actually put together a winning streak? The Wiz assured that they won't break the Nets' NBA record of 18 straight losses to start a season by beating Portland 84-82 in D.C. on Wednesday night to improve to 1-12. The Wiz also were the final team to win at home. The only other remaining winless team on the road is Sacramento. It will be tough sledding Friday for Washington as New York is 5-0 at home and has won every game by double-digits (and covered them all).

Meanwhile, the Lakers are still learning to play in Coach Mike D'Antoni's system as they have lost three of their past four. Los Angeles was held to a season-low 77 points in Tuesday's two-point home loss to Indiana. Playing through the flue, Kobe Bryant had the 114th 40-point game of his career but also an unwanted triple-double with 10 rebounds and 10 turnovers. Since turnovers started being tracked 35 seasons ago, only one other player had ever had at least 40 points, 10 rebounds and 10 turnovers in a game: Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon in 1990 (52-18-11).

Dwight Howard was just 3-for 12 from the free-throw line in that loss. Since putting up 23 points and 15 rebounds in D'Antoni's debut, Howard hasn't topped 17 points or nine rebounds in a game. It's clear Howard and the Lakers' offense really needs Steve Nash back, but he remains out at least through this week with a fracture in his leg. Backup point guard Steve Blake will miss another seven games at a minimum as well. D'Antoni's offense only works with a terrific point guard like Nash. The Lakers have exceeded 100 points only once in D'Antoni's five games.

There are no live betting NBA games at the book Saturday or Sunday but that will change with the end of college football's regular season. Check back Tuesday for a weekly NBA betting recap at Bovada.

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