As we inch closer to the postseason, it’s always fun to get games like Thursday’s, which will preview a potential matchup down the road. That’s what we might have in Sixers-Heat, considering the former sits atop the East and the latter is coming off a run to the NBA Finals. The Heat have something to play for here, but in a game between two teams that have already clinched a spot in the postseason, we may not see the drive and determination that we have all season long. Still, one team will win, one team will lose, and most importantly one team will cover. With that, let’s tell you where to look at SBR’s top-rated sportsbooks.
Philadelphia 76ers vs. Miami Heat
Thursday, May 13, 2021 – 7:30 PM EDT at AmericanAirlines Arena
Riding Into the Playoffs Hot
The main goal for the Sixers, who lead the Nets by 1.5 games for the top spot in the Eastern Conference, is simple: enter the postseason with more momentum than anyone. It’s possible they could lose that No. 1 seed, though a win here would make it pretty unlikely with just two games to go, and especially unlikely considering those games are against the Orlando Magic. This game is all about staying hot.
The Sixers slipped up on Tuesday in a 103-94 loss to the brutally awful Indiana Pacers. In that game, Philadelphia’s vaunted defense held up quite well, but the entire team failed to score on what’s been a quite lethargic defense. Even with that big performance in the win, the Pacers still rank 16th in the NBA in defensive efficiency and had no business pulling something like that.
Though I don’t think even the greatest of excuses will make that scoring outing palatable, considering the Sixers are one of the deepest teams in the NBA, it’s worth pointing out that Joel Embiid missed that game. It makes a lot of sense, considering the man has added double digits on offense per 100 possessions when he’s been on the floor, and makes his status for Thursday all the more important.
Embiid is listed as questionable for this one due to a non-COVID illness, while Matisse Thybulle, who missed last game, is questionable as well with left hand swelling. The good news is that Furkan Korkmaz is expected to return from a right ankle sprain, and Shake Milton’s right knee soreness doesn’t appear that serious, considering he’s questionable as well.
No matter who’s in for Philly, the main takeaway from Tuesday’s loss should be that this defense remains strong. The Sixers have the best defense in the NBA over the past 10 games with a 104.8 efficiency rating, which is 2.3 points better than the next-best team.
Sitting in fifth place, the Heat have something to play for, even if it’s unlikely they’re unable to grasp it. Miami can still clinch home-court advantage in the first round if it manages to overcome a half-game deficit which separates it from Atlanta in fourth place. The problem here is that the Hawks have two more winnable games against the Magic and Rockets coming up to end the season, and the Knicks have three at home with the Spurs, Hornets and Celtics. That means Miami will have to likely sweep the remaining three games against the Sixers, Bucks and Pistons.
Now, it could happen, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see this team almost accepting its fate out there on Thursday against a strong Sixers team. To the Heat’s credit, they’ve won six of seven, mostly on the road, and now get to play their final home game on Thursday. That said, Miami is just 14-19-2 at AmericanAirlines Arena this year, so perhaps that’s not such a good thing. 'When it comes down to it, the Heat have had the fifth-worst defense over the past 10 games, and have gotten away with it by beating up on some bad teams lately. They should be in for a rude awakening against the Sixers, who own the best defense in the NBA over that span.
With that, I have to take the Sixers for my NBA pick here, even if the Heat have more to play for. I’m not a believer in this defense at the moment, and think the team as a whole should get exposed here.
*The pick reflects the line at the moment the writer made the play, the odds at the beginning of this article show the live line movement. Since the lines might vary, don’t forget to refer back to our live odds.