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Hawks vs. Heat prediction: How to bet Tuesday’s Eastern Conference play-in battle

Miami burned bettors a lot this season but will make amends with a comfortable win against Atlanta

Jimmy Butler paced the Miami Heat in scoring this season at 22.9 points per game. Butler will lead the Heat against the visiting Atlanta Hawks in Tuesday’s NBA play-in tournament contest. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
Jimmy Butler paced the Miami Heat in scoring this season at 22.9 points per game. Butler will lead the Heat against the visiting Atlanta Hawks in Tuesday’s NBA play-in tournament contest. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)Read moreSarah Stier / Getty Images

For the first time since the LeBron James-Dwyane Wade-Chris Bosh squads won four straight division titles from 2011-2014, the Miami Heat are back-to-back Southeast Division champs.

And that’s where the similarities end between the 2021-22 Heat and 2022-23 Heat.

Because a year ago at this time, Miami was chilling in South Beach as the Eastern Conference’s No. 1 seed, waiting to see what creampuff emerged from the NBA’s play-in tournament with the No. 8 seed.

This time? The Heat are stuck in said play-in tournament, having finished in seventh in the conference standings, just one game behind Brooklyn for the playoff-protected No. 6 spot.

The silver lining: Miami gets two opportunities to get into the main playoff draw. The first comes Tuesday at home against the Atlanta Hawks, who finished three games behind the Heat in the Southeast Division and are the No. 8 seed.

Miami is solidly favored to take down the Hawks for the fourth time in five meetings this season. But are oddsmakers giving the Heat too much respect?

We would answer “yes” — if the opponent was pretty much anybody other than Atlanta.

Odds updated as of 6:30 p.m. ET on April 10.

Hawks vs. Heat Prediction

  1. Heat -4.5 (at FanDuel)

Hawks vs. Heat Prediction: Analysis

You don’t wager money on this year’s Miami Heat without first breaking into a sweat, enduring some heart palpitations and swallowing hard — really hard.

The reason? Only one other team cost bettors as much money as Miami in 2022-23: the Dallas Mavericks.

Both squads finished 30-49-3 ATS. And only Dallas (13-26-2 ATS) was worse at covering spreads at home than the Heat (16-24-1).

But Miami at least was break-even from a betting standpoint against the Hawks, going 2-2 ATS, with three outright victories. That includes consecutive home wins on March 4 and March 6 to cap the season series.

» READ MORE: T-Wolves vs. Lakers prediction: How to bet Tuesday’s Western Conference play-in clash

The first three clashes were decided by 8, 8 and 9 points, but the last one was a two-point nail-biter: Miami escaped 130-128, but the Hawks barely cashed as a 2.5-point underdog.

From that point onward, though, Atlanta went just 7-10 ATS overall. That was pretty much in concert with the Hawks’ season-long spread-covering performance — their 36-46 ATS mark was the sixth-worst in the league.

So understanding that betting on both teams was a losing proposition this season, let’s focus directly on Tuesday’s matchup — specifically, current form and current health.

Beginning with the two early-March victories over Atlanta, the Heat closed the season on an 11-7 SU run (8-10 ATS). But check out the scores of the team’s last seven wins dating to March 15: 138-119, 112-100, 127-120, 129-122, 118-105, 129-101, 123-110.

All were no-doubters. And three were against playoff teams (Memphis, New York and Philadelphia).

Meanwhile, the Hawks closed 9-10 SU (8-11 ATS), with seven of those defeats by five-plus points.

» READ MORE: Sixers expected to make quick work of Nets in first round of NBA playoffs

As to the health component, Atlanta is banged up. Of its seven players who average double figures in scoring, five are listed as questionable on the injury report. That includes All-Star point guard/leading scorer Trae Young (groin).

Young will be on the court Tuesday night, and the other four ailing Hawks likely will as well. But at what capacity will everyone be operating?

Meanwhile, all of Miami’s main contributors — including leading scorers Jimmy Butler (22.9 points per game), Bam Adebayo (20.4) and Tyler Herro (20.1) — are healthy and ready to roll.

Finally, from the “for what it’s worth” department, there’s this nugget: Going back to Game 2 of last year’s Eastern Conference semifinal series, these division rivals have alternated spread-covers in their last eight head-to-head matchups.

Also, the home and road teams have alternated cashing tickets in the last six meetings.

Reminder: Atlanta cashed (barely) in the most recent tussle in Miami on March 6.

Quirky trend? Sure. But we’re betting on it continuing Tuesday — more to the point, we’re betting on the healthier team that’s playing better basketball.

Hawks vs. Heat Odds (via FanDuel):

  1. Point spread: Hawks (+5) @ Heat (-5)

  2. Moneyline: Hawks (+166) @ Heat (-198)

  3. Total: 226.5 points

» READ MORE: Full sports betting coverage from The Philadelphia Inquirer

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