Wizards vs. Heat Preview: How to Bet this Southeast Division Clash

Action Network betting analyst Roberto Arguello breaks down how to bet Thursday's Southeast Division Clash between the Washington Wizards and Miami Heat.

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Wizards vs. Heat Odds

Wizards Odds +6.5
Heat Odds -6.5
Over/Under 207.5
Time 7:30 p.m. ET
TV NBA League Pass
Odds via BetMGM. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.

The Washington Wizards visit the Miami Heat on Thursday night in a matchup between two of the best teams against the spread so far this season. The Heat are third in the NBA with a +5.3 Spread Differential while the Wizards are fifth with a +4.2 Spread Differential.

The Wizards surprisingly sit atop the Eastern Conference standings at 10-4 as their defensive improvement has shot them up the standings. The Wizards will be playing the second leg of a back-to-back on Thursday as their 97-87 loss on Wednesday at the Hornets snapped a five-game winning streak.

The Heat will also be playing the second leg of a back-to-back on Thursday as they defeated the Pelicans on Wednesday night behind a 31-point triple-double from early season MVP candidate Jimmy Butler.

The Heat are 10-5 on the season, but even despite injuries to Butler, Bam Adebayo, and Kyle Lowry (both Adebayo and Lowry didn’t play Wednesday), a win on Thursday would propel the Heat to the top spot in the Eastern Conference standings.

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Wizards Winning on Defensive End

The Wizards’ defensive improvement is the biggest reason why they are playing quality basketball to start the season. After finishing 30th in Defensive Rating two season ago (115.9 – excluding garbage time, per Cleaning The Glass), the Wizards improved their Defensive Rating to 16th last season (113.2) and have improved again to third in the league (103.2 this season.

Swapping out Russell Westbrook for several quality defenders who have played significant roles this season such as Montrezl Harrell, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and Kyle Kuzma has helped the defense. The acquisition of Spencer Dinwiddie and in-house improvement from players like Deni Avdija have also taken this defense to another level.

While the defense has been solid, the offense ranks just 20th in Offensive Rating at 107.1 (excluding garbage time, per Cleaning The Glass). The offense held them back in Wednesday’s loss to the Hornets as they scored just 87 points and shot 19% (8-of-42) from beyond the arc. Bradley Beal was 5-11 on 3s, but the rest of the team made just three of 31 attempts (9.6%).

If the Wizards win or cover as road underdogs in Miami, they need to shoot 3s at an efficient percentage as the Heat allow the most 3-point attempts (44.9%) of opponent shots while holding those opponents to 33.0% from beyond the arc (seventh in the NBA, per Cleaning The Glass). The Wizards don’t attempt relatively many 3s as their 34.4% shot frequency from beyond the arc ranks 24th while their 32.4% accuracy from downtown ranks 27th in the league.

Sharpshooting Davis Bertans (ankle) is out while Rui Hachimura (conditioning) and Thomas Bryant (knee) also remain out. Spencer Dinwiddie is listed as day-to-day after playing 29 minutes but scoring 0 points against the Hornets.

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Miami’s Ceiling Hinges on Availability

If the Heat win and cover at home on Thursday, it will be because Jimmy Butler and/or Tyler Herro can consistently get them buckets in the halfcourt against a tough Wizards defense.

While the Heat’s defense has allowed the most 3-point attempts and the fourth-fewest midrange attempts, the Wizards’ defense has allowed the fewest 3-point attempts and the second-most midrange attempts. The Wizards have excelled in defending both areas as their opponents are shooting just 31.3% on 3s (best in the league) and 36.5% on midrange attempts (second best in the league, per Cleaning The Glass).

The Heat will need Butler and Herro to manufacture points in the halfcourt against a Wizards team that doesn’t allow high-quality 3-point attempts and also allows the fourth-fewest shots at the rim (29.0% of opponent shots, per Cleaning The Glass).

While the rest of the NBA is seemingly struggling to get to the foul line with new rule changes, Butler has thrived in getting to the charity stripe as his 8.8 free-throw attempts per game are second in the league (behind only Giannis Antetokounmpo). He has ascended into the MVP conversation this season as his 124.5 points per 100 shots rank in the 90th percentile while he still plays at a high level as a defender (both on and off the ball), rebounder, and passer.

Herro has taken the next step this season as he has increased his shooting volume and accuracy (while taking a tough shot profile that consists of jump shots mainly off the dribble). Herro’s effective Field Goal percentage of 52.3% ranks in the 71st percentile among combo guards as he has improved his midrange accuracy (47% — 77th percentile) and 3-point accuracy (38% — 81st percentile, per Cleaning The Glass).

The Heat were without Lowry (rest) and Adebayo (knee bruise) on Wednesday, and although I would expect Lowry at least to be back, it is unclear if they will play Thursday. Dewayne Dedmon (groin) and Butler (ankle) were also listed as questionable heading into Wednesday’s game but did play (Butler had missed the previous three games).

We don’t know yet if those two will be available either, but Butler has asked that Lowry and Bam show up to work today, so that could be an indication that he will be available. Keep an eye on our FantasyLabs news page for today as this will have the latest updates on injuries across the NBA today.

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Wizards-Heat Pick

Assuming Lowry plays after resting on Wednesday, the value in this game will be determined by whether Butler and Adebayo are active. If both are active, expect the Heat to score more efficiently in the half court with Butler getting to the line and pounding switches while Adebayo can generate easy looks at the rim and make some of the midrange shots that the Wizards defense will give the Heat.

Both will also play key roles defensively along with Lowry, so if all three are available, I like the Heat to cover down to -8. While the Wizards are strong defensively, they are mediocre at best offensively, and against a Heat team that ranks among the top six in both Offensive and Defensive Efficiency, their inability to consistently make shots from beyond the arc will be exposed against a Heat defense designed to give up jumpshots.

With Bertans out, Dinwiddie’s status in question, and Beal only shooting 28.0% on 3s, I don’t like the Wizards’ chances against the Heat with all three of Butler, Adebayo, and Lowry.

If Butler and Adebayo play without Lowry, then I like the value on the under down to 204.5 as the Heat will play at a slower pace without Lowry but should still have the juice defensively to keep the Wizards in check.

If Lowry and Adebayo play without Butler, take the Wizards on the spread as the Heat won’t have the offensive firepower in the halfcourt to cover unless at least two of Duncan Robinson, Max Strus, and Herro go nuts on 3s — but this will be tough to do against this Wizards defense that limits quality looks from beyond the arc.

If Lowry and Butler play without Adebayo, wait to get the Heat live at -4.5 or better as the Heat (with Markieff Morris still out due to a neck injury) will likely have to play Udonis Haslem or KZ Okpala which should lead to some opportunities for the Wizards in the first half.

Pick: Heat -6.5 | Under 207.5

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