James Harden’s absence is a blow to Philadelphia but it also leaves us the chance for some strong NBA betting value as we back MVP contender Joel Embiid. We break it down for you in our 76ers vs. Heat picks and predictions.
James Harden’s arrival in Philadelphia has been much ballyhooed, but what is not acknowledged enough is that the 76ers have been favorites in every game of his active four alongside Joel Embiid.
That changes tonight — insert record scratch — because Harden was ruled out midafternoon to rest his left hamstring, the injury that first plagued him at the end of his Brooklyn tenure. Can Embiid alone lift the 76ers to an upset in Miami?
Here are our free NBA picks and predictions for the 76ers at the Heat on March 5, with tip set for 8:00 ET.
76ers vs Heat odds
This odds widget represents the best odds available for each betting market from regulated sportsbooks.
When this line first hit the board, the Heat were just a 1.5-point favorite, but Harden’s status shifted the line to between -4 and -5.5. The total fell as that spread grew, opening at 220.5 before dropping as low as 214.5 by midday Saturday.
76ers vs Heat predictions
Predictions made on 3/5/2022 at 2:40 p.m. ET.
Click on each prediction to jump to the full analysis.
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76ers vs Heat game info
• Location: FTX Arena, Miami, FL
• Date: Saturday, March 5, 2022
• Tip-off: 8:00 p.m. ET
• TV: Bally Sports North, NBCS-Philadelphia
76ers vs Heat betting preview
76ers: James Harden PG (Out).
Heat: Jimmy Butler PF (Questionable), P.J. Tucker SF (Questionable), Kyle Lowry PG (Out), Victor Oladipo SG (Out), Markieff Morris PF (Out).
Find our latest NBA injury reports.
Betting trend to know
The Over is 6-0 in the 76ers’ last six games. Find more NBA betting trends for 76ers vs. Heat.
76ers vs Heat picks and predictions
Our side and total predictions are based upon our analysis of the line and total in this game. Our best bet is our favorite pick across all markets.
Buy on bad news. Sell on good news. It is a gambling mantra this handicapper has espoused a few times this NBA season, but this may be the first time both sides of it apply.
Let’s discuss it in terms of this game’s line movement. When Jimmy Butler was first ruled questionable to play after missing the Heat’s win at Brooklyn on Thursday, this number began moving toward Miami, a sense of optimism about Butler’s availability. That 1.5-point spread grew and grew until it peaked at -5.5. No disrespect to Butler, not even from a proud Timberwolves fan, but is he really worth four points to a spread, especially on a team as deep as the Heat?
To be thoroughly transparent on the process here (pun not intended), that was about as far as we were into this preview when news broke that James Harden would miss tonight’s game. The bets made personally had just been placed, the ones that stand up as putting my literal money where my figurative mouth is.
And yet, with Harden now sidelined, the spread did not grow. It remained at -4.5 or -5, depending on your book. Staring at the Unabated odds board at exactly 2:30 p.m. ET, one book has even posted a -4.0. (Remember, friends, always shop.)
Is Harden really not worth any points to a spread, even if he only recently joined the 76ers?
That lack of movement underscores the general principle. The line had grown too much off the Butler news. Perhaps some of that was already based on speculation about Harden’s availability; in fact, that is likely. And maybe, combined, they are worth 2.5 or 3 points to a spread. But typically, it is an overreaction.
Overreactions create opportunities for profit.
Prediction: 76ers +5.0 (-105)
Covers NBA betting analysis
The exact same premise holds. If the addition of a defensive ace like Butler and the subtraction of an offensive dynamo like Harden knocks this total down by a full six points, let’s lean into that.
After all, it’s not like the 76ers aren’t used to playing without both Harden and Ben Simmons. That is the unique aspect of this trade. Philadelphia did not lose a major offensive piece in the trade, Seth Curry’s shooting aside.
The 76ers can still run the offense it rode to the No. 2 spot in the East. Their offense ranked No. 14 in offensive rating through 58 games this year. (Harden has played in four; 58 excludes those.) It was not exactly atrocious previously.
Prediction: Over 214.5 (-110)
If the thesis here is there is immense value in a spread of +4.0 or +4.5, then there is also value in the accompanying moneyline. If this game should truly be a one-score game, then the expected value of the underdog moneyline is where the profit is.
Yours truly got it at +170, but as of this moment, there are still +155 to +165 numbers available.
Look at it this way, who exactly on the Heat is going to shut down MVP-caliber Joel Embiid? For all P.J. Tucker’s qualities, keeping up with Embiid may be beyond him at this point in his career. Dewayne Dedmon is a defensive liability. Bam Adebayo is at his best as the all-encompassing safety valve, not necessarily defending one player. And if he devotes all his energies to Embiid, the Cameroonian has shown a distinct ability for finding the playmakers around him. Namely, Tyrese Maxey and Tobias Harris, more pieces of that offense that Philadelphia has known all season.
Pick: 76ers moneyline (+170)
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