Returning Kevin Durant Swings Matchup

Heat vs. Net Odds

Heat Odds -3.5
Net Odds +3.5
Over/Under 221.5
Time 7:30 p.m. ET
TV DTT
odds via PointsBet. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.

The Miami Heat will travel to Brooklyn on Thursday night to take on the Nets, who appear to be getting back Kevin Durant.

Miami comes into this matchup in the midst of a terrific season, sitting atop the East standings at 41-22. Meanwhile, the Nets had a midseason falloff that saw them lose 11 straight games, resulting in them entering this game sitting eighth in the conference.

Part of the reason the Nets slide in the standings was because they were without Durant, but all things are pointing toward him being back in the lineup for this game.

Will Durant’s return be enough for Brooklyn to get by the Heat, or will we see the No. 1 seed continue to prove why they’re at the top of the heap?

Miami Looks Like Title Contender

Led by Jimmy Butler, the Heat look more like the team that reached the NBA Finals in 2020 compared to the one that was swept in the first round of last year’s playoffs.

One reason is because Miami’s scoring attack has seen large improvements all over the court. This season, the Heat entered Wednesday with an Offensive Rating of 112.2, which was seventh in the NBA. That’s an increase from 18th ranking (110.6) last season.

Butler has played a big role in that, but Miami has shown tremendous depth behind their star. Guys like Tyler Herro, Bam Adebayo, Duncan Robinson, Max Strus and Kyle Lowry are all averaging double-digit points per game and have all made this offense one of the best in the NBA.

In addition, Miami poses one of the largest defensive challenges in the NBA. Entering this matchup, the Heat were giving up just 40.4 points per game in the paint, entering Wednesday night, which was best in the NBA by nearly two points. Miami is allowing opponents to shoot just 44% form the floor overall, all while posting the sixth-best Defensive Rating at 107.4.

Kyle Lowry, Victor Oladipo and Markieff Morris will all be sidelined for this game though, which affects the Heat’s depth in what will be their second game in as many nights. Miami fell on Wednesday night, blowing a late lead and losing by one in Milwaukee.

No Kyrie, goal Durant Is Back

Kyrie Irving is still ineligible to play in Brooklyn, and newly acquired Ben Simmons still has no time table for his return. However, the good news is that Durant will be back on the floor, which is great for a team that’s desperate to make a late push for a higher playoff seed.

During the aforementioned 11-game losing streak, the Nets hit a big, huge wall. Their Offensive Rating during that skid was 109.5 and the Defensive Rating was atrocious at 121.6. Both of those were likely the result of Irving, Durant and James Harden not staying healthy.

In the seven games since then, Brooklyn has gone 3-4 and maintained a similar Offensive Rating to what it had during its slump, but its Defensive Rating has come down to 114.9, allowing them to remain more competitive.

However, the Nets have shot just 44% from the floor overall and 34% from behind the arc in their last seven, both of which are slightly worse than their season averages of 46.5% and 35%.

The struggles for Brooklyn have been apparent within the last month, and on the season they are 8-19 overall without Durant. Having him back on the floor could be what gets this team rolling again.

Heat-Nets Pick

Miami’s tough loss in Milwaukee is especially tough because it hasn’t been great on the back end of back-to-backs this season. In their 10 back-to-backs this season, the Heat are just 3-7 overall and 4-6 against the spread, showing this is not the same team when it has tired legs.

The absence of Lowry is something to keep an eye on, and Durant changes the landscape of this game. I think it is likely that KD being on the floor is going to get Brooklyn back on track, which is why I think the Nets keep this game close against a tired Heat squad.

Pick: Net +3.5

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