Knicks-Heat in the NBA and early conference tournament action: Best Bets for March 3

New York Knicks guard Jalen Brunson dribbles up the court during the second half of Wednesday's game against the Brooklyn Nets in New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
New York Knicks guard Jalen Brunson dribbles up the court during the second half of Wednesday's game against the Brooklyn Nets in New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
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Each day, one of our experts will offer up a best bet (or two or three) that mobile sportsbooks are offering. It might be a traditional spread bet, a player prop or one of the various odds boosts that books offer.

A reminder for those who haven’t signed up yet: New users can get a risk-free bet at Caesars Sportsbook, meaning that if your first bet loses, you get a bonus bet for the same amount up to $1,250. New users also get 1,000 Caesars Rewards points to redeem for hotel or casino credit.

Here are our best bets for Friday, March 3:

TOP PLAY

The play: NBA, Knicks -2½ over Heat

The odds/bet: -110 ($33 to win $30)

The book: Caesars Sportsbook

Time/TV: 8 p.m. (NBA League Pass)

Our take: This is a classic tale of teams headed in opposite directions. The Knicks are NBA’s hottest team this side of Milwaukee, having won seven straight, including a 15-point beatdown of the Boston Celtics and all but two of the wins by double digits. Jalen Brunson has turned out to be a fabulous free-agent signing, and this team looks like it makes some noise in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

On the other side, we have the Miami Heat, who have lost five of their past six and before that only squeaked by the lowly Rockets and Magic. The Heat actually has a negative point differential on the year, a mark worse than every Eastern Conference team except the bottom four. Miami’s biggest problem? Scoring. The Heat averages 107.8 points, the lowest in the entire NBA by nearly two points.

The Knicks are 12th in the league in scoring and tied for seventh in points allowed, a much more well-rounded team than you might give them credit for. We’ll ride the momentum and take the chance on a road favorite.

ARCH MADNESS

The play: Missouri Valley Conference men’s basketball tournament, Indiana State -2½ over Belmont

The odds/bet: -102 ($10.20 to win $10)

The book: FanDuel Sportsbook

Time/TV: 3:30 p.m. (ESPN+)

Our take: The big conference tournaments don’t start till next week, but in some ways, this week’s small-conference tourneys are more what March is all about — most of these teams need to cut down the nets in order to play in the NCAA tournament later this month.

The Missouri Valley tournament — so-called Arch Madness because it takes place in St. Louis, in the shadow of the Gateway Arch — is consistently one of the best from this weekend.

In this quarterfinal game, we have the higher seed in No. 4 Belmont as an underdog. That should raise your interest immediately, and in this case, there’s more to the story. Belmont beat Indiana State at home just nine days ago in a game that the Sycamores led by as many as 19 and still had a nine-point lead with a little more than three minutes to play. Belmont caught fire from 3 and won in an 89-88 nail-biter to earn this No. 4 seed.

You think Indiana State won’t want some revenge for that? The first 37 minutes of that game are more indicative of the way these teams match up than the last three. Besides, can you really go wrong taking Larry Bird’s alma mater in March?

HOW WE’VE FARED

Thursday’s best bets

NBA: Warriors +4 over Clippers (WON $20)

Women’s college basketball: Georgia -10 over Auburn (WON $10)

Thursday’s profit/loss: +$30 (2-0)

Total for the week: -$15.50 (3-4, 1 pending)

Total for March: +$61.50 (3-0, 1 pending)

Total for 2023: -$71 (35-40, 1 pending)

NOTE: If a line or odds are minus, it considers the juice one must lay to place the bet. Ex: Team A is -160 on the money line, one would have to bet $160 to win $100 (or $16 to win $10). OR Team B is a 5-point favorite at -110, one would have to bet $110 to win $100 (or $11 to win $10.)

Conversely, on positive lines, if Team C is +140 on the money line, a $100 would bring in $140 (or $10 to win $14).

Gambling problem? Call 877-8-HOPENY or text HOPENY (467369).

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