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Bob Matthews' Column

MIAMI HEAT: FIFTH-BEST RECORD BUT VEGAS FAVORITE AND BOB’S PICK

 

 

MIAMI HEAT:  FIFTH-BEST RECORD BUT VEGAS FAVORITE AND BOB’S PICK

 

The Miami Heat were tied for the fifth-best record in the NBA this season but the Las Vegas wizards of odds have made them the favorites to win their third straight championship.

 

I don’t blame them. I don’t like the short odds on the Heat, but they’re still my pick to go all the way.

 

Here are the championship odds from Bovada: Miami 2-to-1…San Antonio 3-to-1…Oklahoma City 9-to-2…Indiana 6-to-1…Los Angeles Clippers 8-to-1…Houston 20-to-1…Brooklyn 28-to-1…Golden State 28-to-win…Chicago 40-to-1…Portland 40-to-1…Dallas 66-to-1…Memphis 66-to-1…Toronto 66-to-1…Washington 150-to-1…Atlanta 150-to-1…Charlotte 250-to-1.

 

Here’s why I like Miami:

 

The Heat got the job done the past two seasons and are supremely confident that they can do it again.

 

The Heat’s record was 54-28, tied with Houston and Portland, and behind San Antonio (62-20), Oklahoma City (59-23), the Clippers (57-25) and Indiana (56-26).

 

San Antonio is not six games better than Miami. No team is better than Miami when the Heat are completely healthy and focused.

 

LeBron James still is the best basketball player in the world and he’ll be primed to give his best effort after losing out for league MVP to Kevin Durant. Winning a third straight title would further stamp LeBron as No. 1.

 

I’m assuming Dwyane Wade will be healthy enough to continue to be the perfect playoff  complement to James. He missed 28 games with assorted knee and hamstring issues this season but appears rested and close to 100 percent healthy.

 

Playing in the Eastern Conference playoffs figures to be a significant plus for Miami. There doesn’t seem to be a team capable of winning more than two games from the Heat in a seven-game series.  They’re probably will be plenty of games Wade won’t need to play major minutes.

 

Chris Bosh often is overshadowed by James and Wade, but he’s still a very good big man with a championship pedigree.

 

Miami has decent depth and the players know their roles” Mario Chalmers, Ray Allen, Shane Batter, Chris Andersen, Udonis Haslem, Norris Cole and instant offense Michael Beasley. A few of the minor players don’t have much mileage left but they still can contribute

 

The biggest knock on Miami is lack of rebounding. But one reason the Heat ranked 29th in offensive rebounding this season is that they had the fewest missed shots to follow up. They had an amazing .501 team field-goal percentage. San Antonio was second-best (.486).

 

Another huge plus for Miami is the quality depth in the loaded Western Conference. There are eight solid teams and they’ll be wearing each other out in all three rounds of the conference playoffs.

 

Darkhorse to fear: Memphis. The seventh-seeded Grizzlies have size, work hard on defense and have enough firepower to upset any opponent on their best.

 

Best records since Dec. 31: San Antonio 37-13…Clippers 36-13…Memphis 37-15…Chicago 36-16.

 

Why Oklahoma City should beat the Los Angeles Clippers should they meet: Clippers center DeAndre Jordan led the NBA in field-goal percentage (.678) and rebounding (13.6 per game), but he is a horrible free-throw shooter (.386 last season and .428 this season). In close games, his lousy foul-shooting is a major liability.

 

AMERKS LOOK LIKE A LIVE LONG SHOT

 

The Rochester Americans have some of the ingredients most Calder Cup champions often have: confidence and momentum (they earned 13 of 14 points in the standings in the seven games entering Friday night’s final home game of the regular season), incentive (the parent Buffalo Sabres need lots of help and will be monitoring the Amerks closely in the playoffs), depth (reinforcements from Buffaslo have arrived), good health (relatively speaking) and a hot goalie (Andry Markarov).

 

Rochester still is among the long shots to win the seventh Calder Cup in franchise history, and it is extremely difficult to finish on top in a 16-team tournament, but the Amerks have the talent and attitude to be a tough out for as long as they last.

 

The big prize is the Cup. A more modest and realistic goal would be winning a series. It has been a long drought:

 

2004-05 – 4-0 series win over Hamilton in first round…lost 4-1 to Manitoba Moose

 

2005-06 – Missed playoffs

 

2006-07 – Lost 4-2 to Hamilton Bulldogs in first round

 

2007-08 – Missed playoffs

 

2008-09 – Missed playoffs

 

2009-10 – Lost 4-3 to Abbotsford Heat in first round

 

2010-11 – Missed playoffs

 

2011-12 – Lost 3-0 to Toronto Marlies in first round

 

2011-12 – Lost 3-0 to Toronto Marlies in first round.

 

ENNIS, GRANT MIXED RATINGS IN NBA MOCK DRAFTS

 

Here’s how several prominent updated NBA mock drafts rate departed Syracuse U. stars Tyler Ennis, Jerami Grant and C.J. Fair:

 

The Sporting News – Grant 17th…Ennis 26th

 

Bleacher Report – Ennis 7th…Grant 26th

 

CBS Sports (three pickers) – Ennis 19th, 7th, 8th…Grant 22nd, 20th

 

nbadraft.net (picks both5 rounds) – Ennis 15th…Grant 20th…Fair 37th

 

ESPN.com (Chad Ford) – Ennis 9th…Grant 18th.

 

In terms of becoming a lottery pick (top 14), Ennis appears 50-50 and it looks like Grant should’ve returned for his junior season. In terms of spending money, both made wise decisions.

 

COLABELLO JUST KEEPS HITTING

 

Minnesota Twins first baseman/right fielder Chris Colabello is treating American League pitchers the way he beat up International pitchers as the league’s MVP and Rookie of the Year last season with the Red Wings.

 

Colabello was 5-for-7 with 3 doubles and 4 RBI in Thursday’s home sweep of the Toronto9 Blue Jays.

 

Colabello’s 2014 batting line with Minnesota (entering Friday): .357 batting average (20-for-56; fifth in the American League), 9 doubles, 1 HR, 19 RBI (leading the AL, 2nd in the majors), 4 walks, 14 strikeouts, .410 on-base percentage, .511 slugging percentage, .981 OPS in 15 games…Entering

 

His salary is $505,000 thIs season. That’s about half of what he was offered to jump to South Korea. So far, he’s been a great bargain. Is it too early for Chris to dream All-Star Game? Probably. But who in town isn’t rooting for him?

 

Last season with Rochester: .352 batting average (1109-for-338), 25 doubles, 24 HRs, 76 RBI, 43 waqlks, 89 strikeouts, .427 on-base percentage, .639 slugging percentage, 1.066 OPS in 89 games.

 

SHORT SHOTS

 

Constitution, the undefeated winner of the Florida Derby, will miss the Kentucky Derby because of a fractured cannon bone in his right front leg. He’ll be sidelined indefinitely but is expected to race again. The clear Derby favorite is West Coast sensation California Chrome.

 

The Finger Lakes Gaming and Racetrack live thoroughbred season  opens Friday and Saturday (dark Sunday). As per usual, all races Friday will be 4 ½-furlong sprints. The betting tips are obvious: with the short run to the grandstand turn, watch out for the horses with the inside post positions. Most of the horses haven’t run since last fall. The few that are coming off relatively recent races at other tracks merit particular attention. And watch the tote board in the final minute.  More than usual, the horsemen know which horses are ready to roll and which ones are out for a stroll.

 

The New York Yankees might have too much age at too many positions and too little proven bullpen depth  to make the postseason, but give them credit for putting together a very promising starting rotation – Masahiro Tanaka, Hiroki Kuroda, Michael Pineda, CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova. There aren’t many better than that quintet.

 

Floyd Mayweather Jr. is a huge favorite (bet $1,200 to win $100) over challenger Marcos Maidana for their WBA/WBC welterweight title fight May 3 in Las Vegas…World heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko will make his 16th title defense April 26 vs. Alex Leapai in Germany. It will be televised live on ESPN at 5 p.m.

 

Add ESPN.com’s Mel Kiper Jr. and Gary Myers of the New York Daily News to the growing list of NFL writers/analysts who list offensive tackle Jake Matthews as the No. 9 overall pick in their latest mock drafts….Myers: “Doug Marrone is a former offensive lineman and Matthews is an instant starter who will help keep EJ Manuel healthy…Kiper: “Good fir in both scheme and need and best player left on the board (he has Michigan OT Taylor Lewan going No. 6 to Atlanta).”

 

Kiper’s updated projected quarterback spots in the draft are interesting: Johnny Manziel No. 4 overall to Cleveland; Blake Bortles No. 8 to Minnesota; Derek Carr No. 20 to Arizona; Teddy Bridgewater No. 33 to Houston; Jimmy Garoppolo No. 39 to Jacksonville; Zach Mettenberger No. 42 to Tennessee.

 

More proof that San Antonio’s Tim Duncan is one of the most underappreciated NBA players by the fans: He ranked 14th in NBA licensed jersey sales this season. It was his first appearance in the top 15 since 2007.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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