Heat vs. Rockets NBA Preview

Jimmy Butler #22 of the Miami Heat is defended
 Jimmy Butler #22 of the Miami Heat is defended. Michael Reaves/Getty Images/AFP

All the missing players for Thursday’s game between the Miami Heat and Houston Rockets should help the Under beat the NBA odds.


Miami Heat vs. Houston Rockets

Thursday, February 11, 2021 – 07:30 PM EDT at Toyota Center


These are interesting times for the Houston Rockets. They don’t have James Harden anymore, or Russell Westbrook, or Chris Paul for that matter; they don’t even have GM Daryl Morey, the architect of all those teams that came very close to winning the Western Conference. But the Rockets (11-13 SU, 10-14 ATS) do have some very good players, including some big names from years past. Now all they have to do is get healthy. Same goes for the Miami Heat (10-14 SU, 8-15-1 ATS). Last year’s surprise Eastern Conference champions are having some issues in 2020-21, including multiple injuries and COVID-19 layoffs. In fact, the missing persons list from both these teams is so long, there aren’t any NBA odds at press time for Thursday’s TNT opener in Houston. Not a problem, though: The Under is often the right call when so many players are on the sidelines.

Wood Shortage

Let’s start with the Rockets. We know for certain – at least, as certain as you can be with your NBA picks – that Christian Wood (plus-0.8 VORP), their promising new center and arguably their best player now that Harden is gone, is out indefinitely with a sprained right ankle. Victor Oladipo (0.0 VORP) is iffy with a tender quad, and several bench players are missing, too. But here’s the good news for Houston fans: John Wall (plus-0.3 VORP) is expected back for Thursday after coming in and out of the lineup with a sprained left ankle. For Miami, Avery Bradley (minus-0.1 VORP) remains on the shelf with a strained right calf; Goran Dragic (minus-0.1 VORP) has just been downgraded to out for Thursday with a sprained left ankle, and Moe Harkless (0.0 VORP) is questionable with a left thigh contusion. These injuries and others have forced the Heat to lean on their two-way contract players, Gabe Vincent (minus-0.4 VORP) and Max Strus (0.0 VORP). The results haven’t been pretty.

Wall Unsound

With so many players out of commission, the Under has had its way with the NBA lines – especially for the Rockets, where the Under is 15-8-1 heading into Thursday’s matchup and 10-5 since the Harden trade. The Under is also 13-11 for Miami, including 8-4 in their last dozen games. Even without their personnel problems, the Heat are built for low-scoring games; they operate at one of the slowest paces in the league, playing tough defense from start to finish.

It’s a bit more difficult to pin down Houston’s modus operandi with all the players coming in and out of the lineup. However, if you look at the Washington Wizards from the mid-10s, when Wall was healthy and in All-Star form, they tended to be in the middle of the pack when it came to pace. Wall isn’t any quicker now that he’s 30 years old and coming off multiple knee surgeries and a ruptured Achilles. Totals for this contest should be available by the time you read this; if you like what you see, consider the Under for a small bet, and enjoy the show.

NBA pick: Under u219½ (-110) with BetMGM