Heat vs. Clippers Odds
|Moneyline||+194 / -235|
|Time||10 p.m. ET|
|Odds as of Sunday evening and via FanDuel.|
The Miami Heat got to do the one thing the Los Angeles Clippers pined for all last season — they got to face the Los Angeles Lakers in the playoffs. The Heat couldn’t get the job done once they got their chance, but the Clippers never even earned their ticket.
Things have looked different for both teams so far this season. The Heat have struggled to find their footing in the new season. They’re 11-15 and have been besieged by a seemingly endless barrage of injuries and health protocol absences. The Heat are barely in the playoff picture right now and haven’t been for most of the season.
The Clippers, on the other hand, look awesome. The Clips are 19-8 and have coasted through the season. They’ve won 13 of their last 17 games, eight of them by double digits, and both Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are putting in sparkling MVP-type seasons when healthy.
The problem is that PG and Kawhi do not appear to be healthy right now, while the Heat are finally almost whole. So can Miami pull an upset?
Feel free to throw most of the season-long Heat metrics out the window. Duncan Robinson is the only regular who has played all season. Bam Adebayo has been mostly healthy but did miss two games. Tyler Herro has missed six. Goran Dragic has missed nine and is out again Monday. And most importantly, Jimmy Butler has missed 12 games.
Butler is back now, and he’s been fantastic when he plays. He’s easily playing at an All-Star level when out on the court, with his defensive intensity ramped up to peak Butler levels. The Heat may be 11-15, but they’re 8-6 with Butler and only 3-9 without him.
Miami’s offense has been a slog this season. The Heat offense ranks in the bottom quarter of the league in offensive rating, though they’ve started to play better with the team finally getting whole. Miami ranks among the league’s best in both free throw and three-point attempt rate. They’re not a particularly great shooting team, but they’re taking efficient, high-value shots.
The Heat are also playing outstanding defense, with Butler and Adebayo leading the charge and getting this team back to what it does best. The Heat force a ton of turnovers and take away anything inside the arc, forcing the opponent to beat them over the top with threes.
Finally, two months into the season, the Heat are starting to look at least a little like the team we saw in the bubble.
Los Angeles Clippers
It’s easy to overlook the Clippers after they choked so hard in last year’s playoffs, but this year’s version of the team has been really good. And it’s largely because the shooting has been off the charts thus far.
Entering Sunday, the Clippers ranked only 17th in three-point attempts as a team, but fifth in makes. They manage that huge disparity by leading the league in three-point percentage at a sparkling 42.2%. The top-nine players in LA’s rotation are all hitting 3s at a 38% clip or better, and every one of them shoots. It’s actually quite absurd. The Clippers are also first in the league in free throw percentage. LA doesn’t have the best shot profile or do anything particularly special. The Clips just can’t miss, with both Leonard and George threatening 50/40/90 seasons.
The problem is that one or both of those guys may miss this one. George hasn’t played since February 3 and should be out again. Leonard didn’t play Sunday night either. On the surface, that looks like Leonard just skipping out on one game of a back-to-back, the easier one against the Cavs with a bigger game coming on Monday. I’m not so sure about that. Leonard just played both games of a back-to-back a couple weeks ago, and he’s got a left lower leg contusion that looks like a real injury.
With the line opening here at Clippers -5.5, it’s clear that the books expect Leonard to suit up for this one. PG is almost definitely out, and there’s no way LA would be sizable favorites against the Heat with both star wings sidelined. Reggie Jackson has been starting with PG out, and either Luke Kennard or Terrance Mann would get the start if Leonard is out . Let’s politely call that a downgrade.
The full-strength Clippers have been terrific, even underrated. They don’t turn it over and don’t foul much, and they have been the masters of hitting tough shots. That sentence makes them a nightmare matchup for the Heat on paper, who rely on free throws and turnovers and force opponents to shoot threes.
But we aren’t getting the full-strength Clippers. LA entered Sunday just 2-3 with Leonard but not PG, with wins against the Wolves and Bulls and losses to the Spurs, Celtics, and Kings. Not particularly impressive. The Clippers entered Sunday with a -11.9 net rating without both star wings. Yikes.
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The Heat had won four games in a row and pulled themselves right back into the division race before running into the Utah Jazz buzz saw on Friday night. The Jazz are crushing all comers right now, so that doesn’t tell us much. What we do know is that Miami is a different team with Butler and Adebayo out there, and that’s the Miami team we’re getting Monday.
We don’t know exactly which Clippers team we’ll get. The best-case scenario appears to be a Clippers team missing half of their star wing duo, with the other one presumably at least a bit limited or not in peak shape. It’s entirely possible Leonard could end up playing limited minutes, or not at all — and remember, the Clippers are only 2-3 with Kawhi but no PG anyway.
All the matchup indicators here favor the Clippers, but I’m not sure these are the real Clippers. With a +194 moneyline making the Heat almost a 2-to-1 underdog, I’ve got to take a chance on Miami. Even if Kawhi does play, and even if he’s a full go, I think the Heat win at least a third of the time, especially with the Clippers playing shorthanded late Sunday. And if Leonard does sit, the Heat could well end up favored by tip-off.
If you prefer a safer route, you can grab the Miami cover. You may even get a fat middling chance if Leonard is out and the line flips. I prefer to be aggressive and go for the kill. That +194 moneyline is calling my name, and I’ll grab it now and play the Leonard risk.
Pick: Heat +194 ML FanDuel