Heat vs. Pelicans NBA Odds & Picks: How to Bet Based on Miami’s Key Injuries (Thursday, March 4)

Heat vs. Pelicans NBA Odds & Picks: How to Bet Based on Miami’s Key Injuries (Thursday, March 4) article feature image

Michael Reaves/Getty Images. Pictured: Bam Adebayo #13 of the Miami Heat defends Zion Williamson #1 of the New Orleans Pelicans.

  • The Heat and Pelicans face off Thursday in the final national TV game before the All-Star break.
  • Both teams have motivation to gain some ground in the standings, but the Heat are dealing with two key injuries to Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo who are on the fence to play.
  • Roberto Arguello details how to get ahead of that injury news.

Heat vs. Pelicans Odds

Heat Odds+3.5 
Pelicans Odds-3.5 
Moneyline+145 / -170 
Time8:30 p.m. ET
Odds as of Thursday and via PointsBet

The New Orleans Pelicans host the Miami Heat on the last day of NBA basketball before the All-Star break.

The Heat had won six in a row before Tuesday’s loss to the Hawks. Jimmy Butler missed that game due to right knee inflammation, and both he and Bam Adebayo (left knee tendinitis) are questionable to play against the Pelicans. The Pelicans will also be looking to bounce back after losing 128-124 to the Bulls on Wednesday night.

At this point in the season, motivation and long-term health will be a huge factor in determining how teams approach games. Let's see how that impacts the betting value for tonight's matchup.

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Miami Heat

The Heat will already be shorthanded with Avery Bradley (calf) and Meyers Leonard (shoulder) ruled out while Butler and Adebayo are questionable.

The Heat have very little chance to win this game without Adebayo, who remains one of the most underrated defenders in the league due to his versatility. Miami doesn't have the depth to withstand his absence at the moment. While Butler is the Heat’s most valuable offensive player, Adebayo is their most valuable defensive player. Without him on the floor, the Heat lack the necessary size to guard Zion Williamson, let alone Steven Adams, Jaxson Hayes, and others inside.

Kelly Olynyk and Precious Achiuwa are the only other bigs in their rotation, but both have significant flaws, especially defensively. With Leonard out for the season, the only other Heat bigs available are Chris Silva and Udonis Haslem, and they have combined for just 53 total minutes this season for a reason.

Among the 35 players who have defended at least 400 field goal attempts this season, Adebayo ranks ninth in defensive field goal percentage (44.5%) according to NBA Advanced Stats. The Heat's Offensive Rating drops off significantly when he is off the floor (101.5 points per 100) compared to when he's on the floor (110.4 points per 100).

What Adebayo does cannot be replaced for the Heat and they are better positioned to withstand the absence of Butler (like they did in their win over the Hawks on Sunday).

Butler’s defensive playmaking will be tough to replace, but Goran Dragic, Kendrick Nunn, and Tyler Herro are also capable of getting their own shots and creating for others offensively.

Dragic and Nunn have impressed lately while Herro recently returned from injury this week. Without Butler, the Heat will need players like Duncan Robinson and Max Strus to get hot shooting 3s to pick up some of the offensive load to win.

New Orleans Pelicans

The Pelicans will have a significant advantage inside if Adebayo is out. Even with Adebayo in the lineup for most of the season, the Heat rank 26th in Offensive Rebound Rate and 18th in Defensive Rebound Rate.

This would be a bad matchup for the Heat if they were without their leading rebounders (Adebayo pulls down 9.5 boards per game and Butler grabs 7.8) as the Pelicans have the best Offensive Rebounding Rate in the league and rank fourth in Defensive Rebounding Rate (excluding garbage time, per Cleaning The Glass).

Williamson will be the biggest beneficiary if Adebayo is out. He has become nearly unstoppable this season with his size and explosiveness in the paint where he leads the league in scoring at 19.3 points per game. Expect a motivated Williamson on Thursday after he missed eight free throws in Wednesday’s loss and spent 40 minutes shooting after the game.

Why did Zion Williamson spend 40 minutes getting shots up after Wednesday’s loss to Chicago?

“Y’all saw the game man… I really felt like I let my team down.” https://t.co/i4DQiFxOFa

— Andrew Lopez (@_Andrew_Lopez) March 4, 2021

If Butler is out, the Pelicans will need to take advantage of the Heat’s perimeter defense, which is already compromised by a handful of defenders who can be targeted in the pick-and-roll like Herro, Robinson, and Strus. Brandon Ingram and longer/stouter guards like Lonzo Ball and Eric Bledsoe should take advantage of smaller defenders on them with or without Butler available.

Regardless of the Heat’s injuries, the Pelicans will need to play with a higher level of effort and intensity defensively after giving up 128 points and getting out-rebounded by 10 against the Bulls in New Orleans on Wednesday.

The Pelicans rank 29th in the NBA in Defensive Rating (excluding garbage time) at 118.1, and they will need to be active defensively against Miami’s offense with frequent dribble handoffs and back cuts.

Heat-Pelicans Pick

With so much uncertainty surrounding the Heat’s two best players, it's best to wait until Butler and Adebayo’s statuses are confirmed before placing your bets. Butler has already missed back-to-back games but is traveling with the team to New Orleans, which makes his questionable tag stand out a bit more. Be sure to keep an eye on our NBA Insiders tool for instant alerts once their statuses are confirmed.

There are four ways the injury news could shake out tonight.

If Adebayo and Butler are out, I would bet the Pelicans up to -7 as the Heat would be too overmatched. If the Heat play without Adebayo but Butler suits up, I like the Pelicans to cover up to -4.5 points.

If Butler is out and Adebayo plays, I like the Pelicans at -3 but could see the Heat being more competitive, and would suggest targeting the Pelicans on the live moneyline at even money or better.

If both Butler and Adebayo play, I think there's value at +3.5 or you grab the moneyline at -130 or better.

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