76ers vs. Heat NBA Preview

Jimmy Butler #22 of the Miami Heat shoots while defended. Kathryn Riley/Getty Images/AFP
Jimmy Butler #22 of the Miami Heat shoots while defended. Kathryn Riley/Getty Images/AFP

The Miami Heat are the right NBA pick as small underdogs for Thursday’s game against the Philadelphia 76ers.

It might be the last week of the regular season, but there won’t be any tanking in this matchup. The Miami Heat (38-31 SU, 32-25-2 ATS) host the Philadelphia 76ers (47-22 SU, 36-30-3 ATS) Thursday night with plenty on the line for both teams – but more for the Heat. That extra motivation might be enough to push Miami over the hump and into your NBA picks as 2-point underdogs in what looks like a very close contest on paper.


Philadelphia 76ers vs. Miami Heat

at Staples Center



Motivational Speaking

It’s not a dire situation for either club, mind you. The Heat are fifth in the Eastern Conference at press time and have already clinched a playoff berth, but they also have the same record as the No. 6 New York Knicks with three games left to go. Falling into sixth place would put Miami into a first-round battle with the No. 3 team in the East – which will probably be the third-place Milwaukee Bucks, owners of the best point differential in the conference at plus-5.9. The 76ers (plus-5.5), meanwhile, are 1.5 games ahead of the Brooklyn Nets for the top seed. Brooklyn have just two games left compared to three for Philadelphia, and the Sixers will face the super-tanking Orlando Magic twice at home after they’re done with Miami (minus-0.2). A loss here wouldn’t be a disaster for Philly, but it wouldn’t be ideal, either. The Heat definitely have more incentive to dig deep and beat the NBA odds for this battle.

 Joel And Jimmy

Judging by the difference in point differential between the two clubs, Thursday’s game might not look like a coin flip on the surface, but there’s a very good chance Joel Embiid doesn’t suit up for the Sixers. He’s officially listed as questionable with a non-COVID illness that left him unable to play in Tuesday’s 103-94 loss to the wayward Indiana Pacers (+5.5 at home). Matisse Thybulle (swollen left hand) is also considered questionable for Philadelphia. Then again, Jimmy Butler might have to miss Thursday’s game for Miami after he got poked in the eye and had to leave Tuesday’s 129-121 victory over the Boston Celtics (+1 at home). Like Embiid, Butler is listed as questionable – and he’s the best player on his team, a fringe MVP candidate to boot. Speculation at press time is Butler will find his way onto the court in this important contest. The Heat were also disappointed Wednesday to learn that Victor Oladipo would miss the rest of the season after choosing to go under the knife to repair his right quad, which has been bothering him ever since he ruptured it two years ago while playing for the Pacers. Oladipo hasn’t played since April 8, though, and the Heat are 11-6 SU and 10-6-1 ATS since then, so as long as they have

Butler in uniform, they should be fine. Keep an eye on Thursday’s shoot-around to see if Butler and Embiid are ready, bet accordingly, and enjoy the game.

NBA pick: Heat +2 (–103) at SBK

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