The NBA often has entertaining races for the final playoff spot in both conferences. This season is no different, as a handful of teams are competing for the eighth and final spot in the postseason in both the Eastern and Western Conferences.
The 30-28 Miami Heat and 31-26 New Orleans Pelicans each occupy the final playoff spot in their respective conferences, and they will play each other today in an important game (8 p.m. ET Friday).
Miami has been playing poorly as of late after reaching as high as the No. 4 spot in the Eastern Conference. Poor play at the end of games has doomed them. Meanwhile, New Orleans is on a three-game winning streak and has played surprisingly well in the absence of star big man DeMarcus Cousins.
This game could certainly go either way, as the teams are pretty similar in quality. This preview will predict what will happen after we break down the game’s burning issues. We will then be in a position to recommend our Miami Heat vs. New Orleans Pelicans betting predictions and picks, at the best odds available, from the top sportsbooks that accept Americans.
Will the Heat Start Executing Better in Crunch Time?
Miami has had plenty of practice playing in close games over the past six weeks. The Heat are in the midst of a streak of 16 straight contests where the final margin was in single digits.
However, the team is just 5-11 in that stretch, including a 1-8 record in its last nine contests. The squad’s crunch-time execution has fallen off big time since the early part of the season, when it was winning almost all of its close games.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra doesn’t have any true stars on his team, just a bunch of average to above-average players who can occasionally get hot. Because of this, he usually rides hot hands instead of keeping a consistent closing lineup. If this game ends up being reasonably close at the end, can someone on the Heat step up enough offensively to help the team to a win?
Can New Orleans’ Role Players Get Going from Outside?
New Orleans is an average three-point shooting team. They are 15th in the league in long-distance makes per game (10.7) and 13th in three-point percentage (36.5). However, the squad’s percentage increases from 34.3 in losses to 38.6 in wins.
Miami takes pride in defending the three-point line. Opponents are making just 8.5 shots per game from behind the arc at a measly 31.6 percent clip in the team’s last 21 games.
If the Pelicans can’t get an outside game going, it will be a lot easier for the Heat to defend Anthony Davis inside. New Orleans thrives on spacing the floor around Davis’ post game, but he’s less effective when defenders can help on him without fear of their assignment knocking down shots on the perimeter.
Can Hassan Whiteside and Bam Adebayo Produce Enough to Offset Anthony Davis?
Davis is easily the top player on either team here. His teammate, DeMarcus Cousins, is out for the season with an Achilles injury, or else New Orleans would have the top two players in the game and Miami would be in big trouble.
However, since it’s just Davis the Heat have to worry about, Miami has a much better chance at neutralizing the Pelicans inside. Whiteside and Adebayo are both nice defenders at the center spot, and they both have nice athleticism to finish at the rim.
Both Whiteside and Adebayo need to make Davis work on the defensive end of the floor to help tire him out for offense, where he will surely play a big role for the Pelicans. AD has averaged 41.3 points per game in his last three contests.
Our Preview’s Miami Heat at New Orleans Pelicans Betting Picks & Predictions
After the long All-Star break, I expect Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra to come up with ways for the team to break out of its slump. Neither of these teams experience major differences in quality of play when they go from their home floor to a road arena.
Miami is also much deeper than New Orleans with all of the Pelicans’ injuries, so that could be a factor. Here go our preview’s Miami Heat vs New Orleans Pelicans predictions and picks:
- As expected, the hot Pelicans are a 2 or 2.5-point favorite with most sports betting outlets. However, I don’t know how much momentum the team has left after a layoff of eight days. The best bet is going with the Heat +2.5 @ -110 with Intertops. That same spread is -113 with BetOnline and -115 with Bovada, while Bookmaker are +2pts at -110.
- Rested legs for both teams will probably mean a faster pace and better outside shooting. New Orleans will also play faster now that DeMarcus Cousins and his lumbering low-post game is not in the lineup. Place your bet on the total points going over 214.5pts @ -110 with 5Dimes, MyBookie or Bookmaker.
Jared is a lifelong sports fan and writer whose specialist subject is NBA. A 2015 graduate of Indiana Wesleyan University, with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, Jared has been a sought-after freelance sports writer. In addition to his valuable USA Betting contributions, he has also written for other top media outlets.