The NBA Finals tipped off on Friday with West No. 1 seed and home team Denver Nuggets doing a number on the East champion Miami Heat, 104-93.
Game 2 sets up a fascinating look for punters. The final margin in Game 1 was only 11 points, but Denver had fired up its whirring death machine offence (s/o NBA Straya), rocked some big mismatches (Aaron ‘Air’ Gordon dominating Caleb Martin in the paint) to be up 17 at the half and 24 late in the third quarter.
Did Miami figure something out, or did Denver take the foot off the pedal?
DENVER NUGGETS: $1.28 (via TopSport)
MIAMI HEAT: $4 (via bet365)
Ball Arena, Denver, Monday 10.05am
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Miami will make adjustments for Game 2 – it will obviously want to attack the rim more and improve its record-setting lack of free throws (two for the whole of Game 1) as well as the historically bad 1-17 shooting between starters Max Strus and Caleb Martin – but its defence is what will give Jimmy Butler and company some hope.
Miami threw a zone defence at Denver and limited the Nuggets to only 20 points in the fourth quarter, with the Nuggets going 0-8 from 3 in that stretch.
Five straight Miami games have now hit the under, and two of the Nuggets three Game 2s have also gone under.
Jimmy Butler had a rough Game 1 – 13 points on 6-14 shooting – and Playoff Jimmy only averages 19.4 points a game against the Nuggets as a member of the Heat.
Butler has, however, alternated good outings with quiet ones against the Nuggets and gone for 24+ points in two of his last four, including a 31-point outing in Denver in 2021.
Butler will be keen to bounce back: look for him to force his way to the line and deliver a better offensive outing: before Game 1, he averaged 26 points a game on the road in the ECF.
Bam Adebayo (26-13-5) was Miami’s shining light in Game 1: Denver’s defensive scheme allows Bam to work in space and in Game 2 he should keep up half decent production.
Bam has gone for 30+ points, rebounds and assists combined in three of his last four games against Denver.
The tricky part for Miami is that Denver can play better too: Nikola Jokic ripped off a triple double in his Finals debut and only got going offensively later in the game when the Nuggets needed some settling possessions.
Joker’s now gone for over 50 points, rebounds and assists in six of his last seven home games these playoffs.
The Nuggets also went 8-27 from 3 as a team, with Jamal Murray, Michael Porter Jr and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope shooting 5-21 from downtown.
MPj, in particular, should be better: he got to 14 points on 5-16 shooting, but a career 42% 3PT shooter went 1-7 on open threes according to tracking data.
Game 2 should be a tighter affair: teams that lost Game 1 of the Finals and didn’t cover the line are 5-4-1 against the line in Game 2s since 2018.
But home teams that win Game 1 of the Finals are 33-25 in Game 2, Denver is 3-0 in Game 2s this postseason, going 2-1 against the line (despite the total points being 2-1 in favour of the under) and the Nuggets are now 43-7 at home.
Look for Denver to be able to keep the Heat at arm’s length once again.
BEST BET: DENVER NUGGETS -8.5: $1.96 (via TopSport)
— JAYMZ CLEMENTS’ NBA FINALS GAME 2 SGM —
MIAMI HEAT @ DENVER NUGGETS
- Nikola Jokic – Over 24.5 points
The Joker is averaging over 27 points per game at home these playoffs.
- Jimmy Butler – Over 24.5 points
Butler has 24-plus points in two of his last four against the Nuggets and is averaging 29.2 points on the road these playoffs.
- Nikola Jokic – Over 10.5 rebounds
In 16 playoff games so far, Jokic has hit 10-plus rebounds in 13.
- Nikola Jokic – Over 8.5 assists
Jokic has topped 8 assists In eight of his last nine games.
- Jimmy Butler – Over 6.5 rebounds
In six of his last seven playoff games, Playoff Jimmy has 7+ rebounds
- Michael Porter Jr – Over 14.5 points
MPJ has 15 or more in three of his last five.
SIX-LEG SGM @ $9.50 (via Betr)
After Game 1 Denver looked too big and too good for Miami: considering its imposing home record, it’s hard not see the Nuggets taking Game 2 and stealing one of the next two in Miami before closing it out at home.
SERIES PICK: DENVER 4-1 $2.70 (via betr)
[all odds as of June 3]
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Originally published as Miami Heat or Denver Nuggets? NBA Finals Game 2 betting tips, odds, picks and predictions