Zion Williamson and the Pelicans look for an 2-0 start as they take on the Heat on Christmas Day. (Photo by Stephen Lew/Icon Sportswire)
- The Miami Heat are 4.5-point favorites as they host New Orleans on Christmas Day (ESPN, 12 PM EST)
- The Pelicans are off to a fast start under new head coach Stan Van Gundy, while the Heat lost their season-opener to Orlando on Wednesday
- Read below for analysis and a pick on the game
Regardless of where the Christmas Day NBA games fall on the league schedule, the matchups are always some of the best of the season.
The defending Eastern Conference Champions Miami Heat host the New Orleans Pelicans in an early-season game with some appeal to bettors. The two played each other in a preseason game on December 14, which New Orleans won, 114-92. Pelicans forward Zion Williamson led all scorers with 26 points in the win, but the Heat are 4.5-point favorites on Christmas.
New Orleans Pelicans vs Miami Heat Odds
|New Orleans||+4.5 (-110)||+164||O 227.5 (-110)|
|Miami||-4.5 (-110)||-196||U 227.5 (-110)|
Odds taken Dec. 24th at FanDuel.
Bumpy Start for Miami
The Heat opened their season with a 113-107 upset loss in Orlando, a team they typically have no trouble outshooting. Neither team was particularly careful with the ball, but the Magic got nice performances from Aaron Gordon and Evan Fournier on offense. Gordon and Fournier also combined for seven steals in the game.
The scoreline could have been a lot uglier for Miami had Orlando shot better than 63-percent from the free-throw line. Frustratingly, the Heat finished the game with more rebounds, points in the paint, and points off of turnovers than the Magic, but Miami never led by more than five points. The Heat was also uncharacteristically poor from distance and finished just 7-for-20 from three-point range as a team.
Pelicans Fly High Against Toronto
When things are clicking for New Orleans, they can be one of the most fun teams to watch in the league. The Pelicans can be a bit streaky at moments throughout games, but they rode a big second-half performance against Toronto to get a 113-99 season-opening win on Wednesday night.
Brandon Ingram led all scorers with a 24-point night with 11 assists and nine rebounds. J.J. Redick was the second-highest scorer in the game with 23 points off the bench. With Stan Van Gundy now at the helm as head coach, New Orleans has a more coherent identity on defense, which pairs nicely with a group that is particularly well-suited to get out and run in transition.
Re-Capping the Last Meeting
Yes, it was the preseason, but New Orleans got a pretty good effort from most of its players and was without Eric Bledsoe and Redick. Williamson played 33 minutes and also grabbed 11 rebounds for a double-double. Brandon Ingram scored 22 points in 31 minutes, and Lonzo Ball had 12 points and six assists in 31 minutes as well.
2020-21 NBA Win Totals Tracker
The Heat were without Jimmy Butler, Goran Dragic and Andre Iguodala but Tyler Herro stepped up with 17 points, and Duncan Robinson added four three-pointers as part of a 14-point performance. Star big man Bam Adebayo only played 19 minutes but had nine points and eight assists while he was on the floor.
Finding the Right Side
The end of last season wasn’t really that long ago, and the Heat were a beat-up team by the end of the Finals. Right now, Miami looks like a team that is a step behind others in getting the wheels turning out of the gates.
🎯 Walk up on another triple
💥 Find @Zionwilliamson for the slam@ZO2_ sparking a 10-0 run out of the break #WontBowDown pic.twitter.com/HkgzXLFRlF
— New Orleans Pelicans (@PelicansNBA) December 24, 2020
In their preseason meeting, Williamson scored all of his points around the basket and shot 61-percent from the field. The Heat didn’t have anyone that was able to stay in front of him, and he was particularly crafty with how he avoided defenders on his drives to the rim. New addition Steven Adams may not be an obvious difference-maker for the Pelicans, but he can make things difficult for Butler and Adebayo in the paint.
New Orleans won their last regular-season matchup in November and covered as 1.5-point favorites, 110-104. Right now, the Pelicans look like the more confident side and are going to come out ready to shoot against a Miami team that has been off the mark in the early going. The Heat seem to be swooning a bit to start the season, and Van Gundy is going to have his team motivated to take on the defending Eastern Conference champs.
The Pick: New Orleans +4.5 (-110)
Nick Krueger has over a decade of experience in sports media, covering a wide range of events including two Olympic Games for Yahoo Sports. Other areas of focus for Nick throughout his career have included college football recruiting, NCAA athletics and Major League Baseball Spring Training.