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NBA East: Heat Aim to Bounce Back Against Raptors

The Association boasts a modest three-game slate today, but if you need some extra action to keep you busy before the Super Bowl kicks off at 6:30 EST, check out the three battles on the hard court, which will see the Heat attempt to rebound from a tough loss to Indiana against Toronto, the Clippers visit Boston and the Lakers invade Detroit. Here is a breakdown of each match-up and point-spread picks to whet your betting appetites for the big game later today.

Los Angeles Clippers -1 at Boston Celtics +1

When the Clippers blasted the Celtics 106-77 on Dec. 27 both teams had their star point-guards in their respective starting lineups. That won’t be the case today.

Rajon Rondo tore his ACL last week and will miss the rest of the season, while Chris Paul is still dealing with a knee injury that has caused him to miss several games recently, so in some respects things will be even again this time around.

But the Clippers obviously have the edge as a team that is 34-14 on the year against the Celtics, who are playing .500 basketball at 23-23 even with wins in their last three games.

Look for the Clippers to defeat the Rondo-less Celts today, but not be nearly as wide of a margin they did more than a month ago. Still, I like them to cover -1 today.

Los Angeles Lakers -3.5 at Detroit Pistons +3.5

The Lakers – coming of a nice win against Minnesota – are a team still trying to find traction in the second half of the NBA regular season. The good news for them today is that they are up against a similarly struggling Pistons team. The bad news is that they are on the road, where they are 6-16 this season and haven’t earned a victory away from Staples Center in six weeks.

Even against the Pistons it won’t be easy to snap the road losing skid considering that Dwight Howard may not be available after re-injuring his shoulder last week. The Lakers may end up pulling it together and breaking the streak, but I’d play it safe here and at least take the Pistons to cover +3.5, even in a loss.

Miami Heat -4 at Toronto Raptors +4

The Miami Heat have hit some bumps in the road on their path to repeat as NBA champions, but the fact that they own the best record in the Eastern Conference hasn’t changed. They’ll take that record in Toronto today, where they’ve had plenty of success in the past, but this will be their first game facing a Raptors team with newly acquired Rudy Gay.

Gay was sent north in a three-team trade between the Grizzlies, Raptors and Pistons and certainly brings more offensive firepower to a team that has failed to find a spark on that side of the floor for the majority of the regular season.

With the Heat coming into the game with an 11-11 road record and playing against a much better Raptors team, look for Toronto to cover +4 today.

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