February 20, 2013
By Kevin Rogers
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The two games on the Thursday NBA card involve rematches of playoff series over the last two seasons. The Spurs swept out the Clippers in the second round of the 2012 postseason, while the Heat eliminated the Bulls in five games of the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals. So far this season, the losing clubs from those series have exacted revenge with victories in the opening matchups. Will that trend keep up on Thursday night?
Heat at Bulls – 8:05 PM EST
Miami makes its first trip to the Windy City this season as the Heat plays with no rest on Thursday. The defending champions are coming off Wednesday's comeback win at Atlanta, while looking to avenge an earlier loss to the Bulls. Chicago is fighting tooth-and-nail atop the Central Division with Indiana, as the Bulls enter Thursday's action just 1 ½ games out of first place.
The Bulls are coming off a 96-87 victory at New Orleans to start the second half, while easily cashing as one-point road favorites. The Chicago frontcourt stepped up as Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer, and Joakim Noah combined to score 52 points and pull down 32 rebounds in the win. In spite of two low-scoring quarters in the second and fourth, a 52-point third quarter helped push the game 'over' the total of 181 ½. That contest ended a stretch of eight games in nine different cities since January 30 for Chicago, but the Bulls head back to the highway for road matchups with Charlotte (Friday) and Oklahoma City (Sunday).
The last time the Heat faced the Bulls in South Florida, Chicago pulled out a 96-89 triumph as 7 ½-point underdogs on January 4. Boozer owned the paint with 27 points on 12-of-17 shooting, while LeBron James led all scorers with 30 points. However, past James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh, the rest of the Heat supporting cast scored just 23 points in the loss. The victory by Chicago was the first at the American Airlines Arena since March 2011, improving to 2-9 in the last 11 trips to Miami.
Tom Thibodeau's club has won five of their last seven games away from the Windy City, while posting a 2-3 ATS record as a home underdog this season. The Heat is rolling on the highway after a slow start by winning and cashing in seven of the past 10 contests on the road, including last night's 103-90 triumph at Atlanta by dropping 40 points in the fourth quarter.
Spurs at Clippers - 10:35 PM EST
Los Angeles couldn't figure out San Antonio last May in the playoffs, but the Clippers found a way to beat the Spurs twice already this season. These two teams could be on a collision course to meet again in the playoffs this spring, but the Clippers will have to prove that the two November victories over San Antonio was not a fluke.
The Clips dominated the Spurs in the first matchup since the playoff sweep in a 106-84 rout on November 7. Seven Clippers scored in double-figures, while L.A shot a blistering 55% from the floor as Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan combined to put up 42 points. Tony Parker was limited to only four points on 2-of-7 shooting as the Spurs converted 41% of their shots from the field.
San Antonio built a 10-point lead early in the next meeting on November 19 at home, but the Clippers outscored the Spurs, 29-14 in the second quarter to take the lead for good in a 92-87 triumph. Los Angeles cashed outright as 4 ½-point road 'dogs, despite shooting 1-of-12 from three-point range and missing eight free throws. The Spurs struggled again from the floor by hitting just 35% of their field goal attempts.
The Spurs continue their never-ending Rodeo trip in which Gregg Popovich's club has won five of the first six contests of a nine-game swing. San Antonio failed to cover in each of the last two victories at Cleveland and Sacramento, but the Spurs did grab a win in their lone opportunity as an underdog at Chicago on February 11.
The Clippers have won 16 of their last 18 home games dating back to Thanksgiving, but L.A. owns a 1-5 ATS record the previous six trips to the home court. Vinny Del Negro's team has allowed less than 100 points in seven of the last 10 home contests, while the 'over' is 5-5 in this span.
You can reach Kevin Rogers via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
Kevin Rogers can be followed on Twitter at virogers.
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