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Cold Night in Central

Sunday’s schedule proved rough for the Central Division. With all five sides hitting the road, only Milwaukee managed to secure a victory. Indiana and Chicago, the division leaders, both came unglued against high-profile sides, while Detroit and Cleveland each continued to struggle.

Indiana Pacers 91, Miami Heat 105

Despite success against Miami earlier this season, Indiana became the 18th straight side to lose to the Heat on Sunday night.

Despite success against Miami earlier this season, Indiana became the 18th straight side to lose to the Heat on Sunday night.

If Indiana (39-24) is to contend with Miami (47-14) come playoff time, Frank Vogel’s side will need to put on a better performance than this one.

Having defeated Miami twice earlier in the year, Indiana had no answer for an all-round performance from the Heat in the third and final regular season meeting between the sides.

Miami got big nights from Mario Chalmers (26pts), Chris Bosh (24pts) and Dwyane Wade (23pts), while LeBron James had a ‘quiet’ night with 13 points, seven assists, and six rebounds. As a team the Heat shot 55.9 percent from the field and 50 percent from behind the arc.

Indiana saw a productive outing for its front line of David West (24pts) and Roy Hibbert (16pts) but All-Star Paul George tallied just 10 points on 2-11 shooting while George Hill and Lance Stephenson combined for just 13 points. D.J. Augustine has 14 off the bench, one of the Pacers’ few bright spots.

Miami ran its win streak up to 18 games with the win, and became the first team in the NBA to secure a playoff berth.

Indiana – nine games back of the Heat – fell behind New York (38-22) for the No. 2 playoff berth.

Losing by 14, Indiana didn’t even come close to covering the spread (+6). The Pacers are now 35-28-0 ATS this season, with a 16-15-0 ATS record on the road. The side is also 9-14-0 ATS when playing as the underdog. That doesn’t bode well for a potential playoff showdown with the Heat.

The total (193.5) went over, bucking Indiana’s tendency to see the score drop below the bookmakers’ marker. The side is now 28-35-0 in favor of the under.

Losers of two of the last three, Indiana will host Minnesota (21-39) on Wednesday before the Lakers come to town on Friday.

Chicago Bulls 81, Los Angeles Lakers 90

Chicago suffered a loss at the hands of the Lakers on Sunday, leading to further fears regarding the team's playoff hopes this season.

Chicago suffered a loss at the hands of the Lakers on Sunday, leading to further fears regarding the team’s playoff hopes this season.

While Indiana may be scratching its head over Sunday’s performance, Chicago (35-28) is simply trying to keep pace with the rest of the Eastern Conference.

The Bulls’ trip to Staples Center saw all five starters score in double digits, led by Nate Robinson (19pts) and Joakim Noah (18pts), but 37.1 percent shooting wasn’t enough to beat a Lakers side that also saw all of its starters reach double digits. The big performance from the purple and gold side came from Dwight Howard, who pulled down 21 rebounds to go with 16 points and four blocks.

For the Lakers (33-31), the victory marked the first time all-season the team has been two games over .500 and saw the team move into the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference. For the Bulls, it marked another bump in an already rough road.

The Bulls have gone 7-11 since the start of February, and Sunday’s loss in Hollywood marks a third in four games. The side now trails Indiana by four games in the Central Division and has slipped to fifth in the Eastern Conference. Both Boston (34-28) and Atlanta (34-28) are just one-game behind in the win column. If the Bulls don’t pick things up – something many believe will only happen with the return of Derrick Rose – the side could be facing a No. 7 or No. 8 seed come mid-April.

With the spread opening at 6.5 in favor of the Lakers, Chicago (27-26-0 ATS) failed to cover for the 36th time this season. Only Charlotte, Minnesota, the Lakers and Phoenix have covered fewer times than the Bulls this term. That’s certainly something bettors need to keep at the forefront of their mind.

As has been the case so often in Bulls games this season, the total (195) went under. Chicago is now 26-37-0 in favor of the under. Washington (22-38-1) is the only side that has seen the total go under more times that the Bulls (who are tied with Brooklyn and Memphis in that regards).

The Bulls will continue their current West Coast road trip this week with games in Sacramento (Wed) and Golden State (Fri).

Milwaukee Bucks 115, Sacramento Kings 113

Milwaukee (32-29) was the only Central Division side to taste success on Sunday. The Bucks moved to 2-1 on their current West Coast swing with a 115-113 win in Sacramento (22-43).

The Bucks have now won six of the last seven and find themselves just two games behind Chicago in fifth place. It looked given that the side would be playing from the No. 8 seed come playoff time, but this type of form may well see Milwaukee climb the standings before we get there.

The Bucks covered the spear (+1) in this upset win, moving to 29-31-0 ATS this season. On the road, the team has posted a 19-12-0 ATS record, something bettors should keep an eye on.

It’s a busy week for Milwaukee as the team returns home to face Dallas (Tue) before heading out to Washington (Wed). Home games with Miami (Fri) and Orlando (Sun) await this weekend.

Detroit Pistons 97, Los Angeles Clippers 129

Detroit (23-42) has looked worse this season than Sunday night’s 129-97 defeat at Staples Center. The Pistons shot 46.9 percent from the field, making 11 of 23 three-pointers (47.8%) as Jose Calderon (18pts) and Jonas Jerebko (14pts) led the team in scoring.

Sadly for the Motown team, the Clippers (45-20) were on form. Behind Chris Paul (20pts, 14asts) and Blake Griffin (22pts, 8rebs) the side shot 62.5 percent from the field and put on a show against the lowly Central Division side.

The Pistons have now lost five straight and eight of the last nine. In the process, the side failed to cover the spread (-13) and moves to 29-36-0 ATS this season.

Thanks to the Clippers offensive outburst, the total (199.5) went over. Detroit is now 31-33-0, marginally favoring the under.

Detroit continues its West Coast jaunt this week with games in Utah (Mon), Golden State (Wed) and Portland (Sat).

Cleveland Cavaliers 96, Toronto Raptors 100

A 19-point third quarter effectively handed the Cavaliers a third straight loss and fourth in five games.

Before the third frame, Cleveland (21-42) led Toronto (25-39) 55-46. That lead turned into a 79-74 deficit after the third, one that the Cavaliers couldn’t erase.

Dion Waiters paced the team with 21 points while C.J. Miles contributed 15 points off the bench. The Raptors however got double digits from all six players and connected on 26 of 34 free throws (76.5%), which would prove the difference. Cleveland was just 17 of 27 (63.0%) from the line on the evening.

Despite losing straight up, Cleveland covered the spread (-6) to move to 33-30-0 ATS on the season. The total (203) went under, leaving the Cavaliers with a 34-29-0 record in favor of the over.

Cleveland travels to Washington on Tuesday before heading out for a Texas double-header with Dallas (Fri) and San Antonio (Sat).

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