Heat vs. 76ers NBA Preview and Best Bet for Monday

Bam Adebayo #13 of the Miami Heat. Megan Briggs/Getty Images/AFP

The top sportsbooks have released their NBA Odds for tonight’s game between Miami and Philadelphia. The Heat have been winning their most recent games but not covering large spreads.

They will not have a big spread to cover, though, in Philadelphia. The 76ers will look to bounce back after suffering an upset loss against the visiting Raptors. For reasons that I will explain, you should play the spread for this game.

Miami Heat vs. Philadelphia 76ers

Monday, March 21, 2022 07:30 PM EDT at Wells Fargo Center

Jimmy Who?

Heat forward Jimmy Butler is listed as ‘questionable’ for tonight’s game as he’s afflicted with a right ankle sprain that also kept him out of his team’s last game.

I don’t mean to downplay Butler’s importance to his team. But we have to assess this importance as bettors and not just as NBA experts. Without Butler, the Heat actually have a winning ATS record. They are 13-10 ATS without him. Keep this stat in mind for your best bets.

Some bettors posit a rule to not make bets according to injuries. Miami’s ATS success in a large data sample of games without Butler helps legitimate this rule.

Key Trend 

Miami’s ATS success without Butler notwithstanding, the most important trend for tonight’s game addresses Philadelphia’s chances against strong defenses. The 76ers are 0-4-1 ATS in their last five games against defenses that rank in the top five in defensive rating.

They’ll play their second consecutive game tonight, against a fresh Heat squad, after dropping 88 yesterday against Toronto.

Quality and Versatility 

Miami’s defense is ranked so highly because it is stacked with quality and versatility. This quality is not easily measured by All-Defensive squad selections. Media talking heads and fans in general rightly express their indignation that point guard Kyle Lowry hasn’t made an All-Defensive team.

Lowry is well-known for playing well above his size at 6-0. He is gritty and strong, such that opposing players who are bigger than him will have trouble backing him down. Video footage also shows his combination of determination and lateral movement.

This combination makes it hard for opposing ball-handlers to drive past him. He also is unafraid to collect charges. The versatility of Heat defenders is more clearly captured by P.J. Tucker at the four and Bam Adebayo at the five. Tucker ably guards the opposing team’s top perimeter player. 

During last year’s NBA playoffs, his toughness against much taller NBA superstar Kevin Durant was well-documented. Unlike Lowry, Adebayo has received the recognition he deserves. He has earned two consecutive selections into the All-Defensive second team.

Scheme 

Miami’s defensive versatility reflects the extent to which its personnel has been selected to do the kind of things that head coach Erik Spoelstra wants them to do. One such thing is switching. With agile bigs like Adebayo, the Heat can switch one through five.

Switching can be difficult because it requires communication. Defenders have to quickly establish where each player will go when a switch happens.

Miami’s chemistry is evident in the ease with which it switches, which contributes to its strong defensive rating. In addition to switching, the Heat are known for their aggressiveness. They will offer help to teammates on defense and they will rotate with a relatively high amount of determination.

Flaws 

Miami’s aggressiveness on defense helps explain why it struggles to limit opposing three-point attempts. The Heat rank 27th at limiting opposing three-point attempts. Moreover, their switching positions them poorly for defensive rebounding.

To be sure, switching has its virtues especially when a team has the position-less quality and versatility that Miami does. Switching allows for a defense to keep a defender in front of the opposing ball-handler like when a screen or dribble handoff happens.

However, switching also helps explain why the Heat rank only average in defensive rebounds per game. Adding Tucker has certainly helped them in this respect, but defensive rebounding remains a vulnerable point for them.

Can’t Take Advantage 

In order to exploit the weaknesses of the Heat defense and to succeed against Miami, a team will want to thrive from behind the arc and to dominate offensive rebounding.

But the 76ers are one of the least likely teams to do either. They rank 28th in three-point attempts per game and last in offensive rebounds per game. Philadelphia cannot take advantage of Miami’s defensive weaknesses.

Threes

Philadelphia’s perimeter defense looks nice statistically. But know for your NBA picks that it struggles against teams that are actually good from behind the arc.

Miami is one such team. As part of its last win over the 76ers — in a 99-82 win on March 5th — it made 13 of 28 three-point attempts. Tyler Herro and Max Strus are two high-volume examples of Miami’s many efficient three-point shooters.

Scoring Prediction: Miami: 110 – Philadelphia: 97

NBA Pick: Heat -1.5 (-110) with FanDuel