NBA betting: How to approach critical Game 5 in 76ers-Heat series

·Betting analyst
·5-min read

Since 2000, over 70% of NBA teams that win Game 5 ended up winning the series. It is even more critical when the series is tied 2-2, eliminating the margin of error for the losing team.

Home teams get a crack at closing out the series on the road, with the benefit of knowing they will be hosting the deciding Game 7 if they come up short. Road teams that earn a 3-2 series edge get to carry all the momentum back to Game 6 with a chance to close out the series in front of their home crowd. No matter how you slice it, winning Game 5 correlates to winning the series.

Tuesday's NBA slate consists of two Game 5's with teams in very similar situations. After dropping the first two games, both underdogs battled back to even the series. The favorites, Phoenix and Miami, come back home for a crucial fifth game.

Now that we understand the importance of tonight's games, I want to review how we can leverage BetMGM's series markets to get most value out of the outcome. I am going to focus on the 76ers-Heat matchup, but you can apply the same process to the Suns-Mavericks game as well.

Joel Embiid of Philadelphia 76ers and Bam Adebayo of Miami Heat fight for a rebound while James Harden looks on during an NBA playoff game on May 8. (Tayfun Coskun/Getty Images)
Joel Embiid of Philadelphia 76ers and Bam Adebayo of Miami Heat fight for a rebound while James Harden looks on during an NBA playoff game on May 8. (Tayfun Coskun/Getty Images)

Philadelphia 76ers (+3.5) at Miami Heat (-3.5)

The 76ers travel to Miami at full-strength with Joel Embiid for the first time in the series, giving it a unique twist. The NBA scoring champion's presence alone has changed the series dramatically. After shooting 44% and an abysmal 21% from 3-point range in the first two games, Philadelphia found their familiar home rims at a 48% rate from beyond the arc in Games 3 and 4. James Harden drilled clutch three after clutch three, rekindling the hope that he can still be the complement to Embiid they envisioned when trading for him.

The stark contrast in Philadelphia's performance with and without Embiid leaves bettors and oddsmakers with uncertainty heading into Game 5. Since Embiid's return to the series, the 76ers have a +15.7 net rating over the two-game sample size, easily the best in the NBA. They also are second among the playoff field in offensive and defensive rating, trailing only Golden State (offense) and Boston (defense).

Miami's inability thus far to find an answer for Embiid makes Philly a live underdog to win the series. Bettors have to ask themselves if the 76ers' surge in shooting is a byproduct of playing in front of the home crowd or the challenges Embiid creates for the Heat defense. The answer is both, but determining the degree of impact will steer your wager tonight.

Miami, the Eastern conference's top seed, is now -145 to win the series at BetMGM, while you can bet on Philly to finish off the comeback at +120. Let's compare those prices to tonight's moneyline odds for each team: Miami (-165) and Philadelphia (+140).

If you are interested in betting Miami tonight and don't want to risk laying the 3.5 points, wagering on them at -145 to win the series, as opposed to the more expensive -165 moneyline, is worth your consideration.

A Miami win tonight would point to Heat head coach Eric Spoelstra making the adjustments to better deal with the Sixers' polarizing center. The Sixers' bench countering that adjustment and taking the final two games of the series seems like an unlikely response. Miami betters should grab the series price at -145.

Teams that started the series trailing 0-2 have only won 7.6% of the time. Is that a sign for 76ers fans? Embiid's absence in the first two games makes this series more of an outlier, reducing the relevancy of the trend. However, it doesn't minimize the importance of tonight's game. The odds will shift dramatically to the winner, so this could be your last opportunity to capture the Sixers are big underdogs. Unlike Miami, the value for Philly is in tonight's moneyline odds (+140), which is greater than the series price (+120). As we discussed above, there is a low probability of winning the final two games if they can't get the job done tonight.

The 76ers' most likely path to winning the series is by running the table with consecutive wins in the next two games. A win followed by a home loss in Game 6 would require them to win a second straight road game in an intense Game 7 atmosphere. Not impossible, but not something we would want to wager on. It does open one final betting opportunity for believers in Philadelphia — take the Sixers in 6. You can bet Philadelphia to win the series 4-2 with the current odds of +300. I can't reasonably justify the difference in price between the Sixers winning Game 5 tonight (+140) and winning the series 4-2 (+300). The odds represent a 42% probability for a Game 5 victory and only a 25% probability to win the series 4-2. If you believe the 76ers will win the game tonight, the bet to make is that they close the series out in Game 6.

*stats provided by nba.com, nbcsports.com

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