|Time||6 p.m. ET|
|Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.|
The Dallas Mavericks take on the Miami Heat in a game with important playoff implications for both teams.
It’s an East-West matchup so neither team can replace the other in the standings, but both are vying for favorable positioning in the playoffs.
With 35 losses, the Heat are seventh in the Eastern Conference — two losses behind the Nets and two ahead of the Hawks.
A win Saturday would inch Dallas closer to the play-in tournament, but as it stands, the Mavericks are tied in the loss column with the Thunder — a team I’m not 100% sure is trying to make the playoffs this season.
Let’s breakdown the odds and I’ll give out a pick for Mavericks vs. Heat.
The Mavericks have been in a tailspin, or, as Kyrie Irving said, a “clusterf***k”. He seemed to be speaking of the Mavericks’ positional standing rather than their locker room chemistry, but then again, who knows what he was really saying — trying to understand what’s on his mind is an exercise in futility.
Either way, the Mavericks didn’t trade for Irving so they could better understand him. They acquired him for his offensive prowess, even if it meant their defense would suffer.
Since trading for Irving, the Mavericks’ Offensive Rating has jumped from 115.2 to 117.9, according to NBA Advanced Stats.
The problem is their defense got so much worse that it hasn’t made up for the increased offensive efficiency. The Mavericks went from a +.5 Net Rating pre-Irving, to -.5 after he joined the team.
Lately, even their offense has been middling. In the past 10 games, they have a 114.8 Offensive Rating — just 19th in the league. Their recent meltdown against the 76ers is a primary example of their lack of ability to execute down the stretch. They went from scoring a game-high 37 in the first quarter, to a game-low 17 in the final 12 minutes and blew a 12-point lead in the process.
The Heat haven’t exactly been lighting the world on fire themselves. In fact, they’ve dropped five straight to several of their Eastern Conference rivals in the Nets, Raptors and Knicks — games Miami needs if it wants to make it out of the play-in and into the solidified playoffs.
Miami has been getting by as the antithesis of the Mavericks — all defense, but no offense. According to Dunks and Threes, the only teams the Heat are better than offensively are the Hornets, Spurs, Pistons, Rockets and Magic. Four of those five teams are actively tanking, while the Magic have been getting by on their defense.
Just like Dallas has experienced recent offensive woes, the Miami defense has seen a significant drop off lately.
In the past 10 games, Miami has just a 119.4 Defensive Rating, which ranks 26th in the league.
The Heat defense has been keeping them in games, but they haven’t been able to get things going to start. For that reason, they’re the worst team at home against the spread (12-25-2), but they manage to eke out games at the last minute thanks to conditioning, discipline and coaching (I swore I wouldn’t write “Heat culture”).
Trends would tell you to bet the Mavericks here. They’ve owned the recent matchup, having won four of the past five meetings. However, I have little faith in either of these teams right now and my model makes this matchup Heat -1.5 — not enough of an edge either way.
Instead, I’ll make a play based on recent trends that also fits the season-long narrative for both teams.
I like the Heat to cover the spread in the fourth quarter, whatever it ends up being. The Mavericks tend to fall apart down the stretch and that’s where the Heat do the most damage.
The Heat have the eighth-best ATS record in the fourth quarter (43-34, 5.74% ROI). In the past 10 games, Miami is 6-4 ATS in the fourth quarter, according to EV Analytics.
The Mavericks are the league’s seventh-worst team at the end of games with a 35-42 ATS record in the fourth quarter (-13.12% ROI). They’re also 3-7 in their past 10 fourth quarters.
I’ll take the Heat in the fourth quarter at any number. If you want to wait to live bet this after the third quarter since it’s pretty heavily script-dependent, I wouldn’t blame you and would take the Heat down to -3 if they’re trailing after three quarters.
Pick: Miami Heat 4th Quarter
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