‘Greatest run ever:’ Charles Barkley drops bold claim on Heat’s title run

It’s no secret that if the Miami Heat are able to upset the Denver Nuggets and take out the 2023 NBA Championship, it will be a serious feat.

A few short weeks ago, they were looking down the barrel of a missed postseason just a year after going heartbreakingly close to making the NBA Finals for the second time in three years. After a loss to the Atlanta Hawks in their first play-in game, they were pushed to the brink by the Chicago Bulls, only to pull away in the last quarter to secure the eighth seed.

They hardly looked like a potential championship team, and most expected them to be comprehensively booted out of the playoffs by the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round.

But here we are. The Heat just keep on winning, and according to Charles Barkley, “if the Miami Heat are able to win this championship, it will be, in my opinion, the greatest run ever for an underdog.”

And Chuck has a point. As the eight seed, the Heat haven’t had home court advantage at all during the playoffs. They’ve come up against a Bucks team that many expected to win the championship, as well as the team that replaced them in the Boston Celtics, and won both. They’re filled to the brim – as we’ve heard over, and over, and over again – with undrafted players, and led by Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo – a star duo no doubt, but not at the level of what many other teams have, including the Nuggets.

The Heat have a big job against them, and despite having knocked off the Bucks and the Celtics, this looks like their toughest assignment yet. The Nuggets are firing on all cylinders and will take some serious stopping, and if Jimmy Butler and co can manage to do so, it will go down in the annals of NBA history as one of the most unlikely championships we’ve seen.

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‘Not all rings weigh the same.’ Nick Wright drops bold Heat, Jimmy Butler title take

This isn’t the first time Jimmy Butler has shown us that, come the postseason, he’s an entirely different player. But according to Nick Wright, if he can lead his Miami Heat to a championship against the Denver Nuggets in the upcoming NBA Finals, his standing in the league will go up a whole lot more.

Speaking on Fox Sports 1’s First Things First, Wright discussed his “Player Pyramid,” which highlights who he believes to be the top ten players since the 20034 draft. Sitting atop the pyramid is LeBron James; on the next level are Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant; on the third tier are Giannis Antetokounmpo, Dwyane Wade and Chris Paul; while rounding things out are Nikola Jokic, Russell Westbrook, Kawhi Leonard and James Harden.

But that pyramid is far from set in stone. Prior to Game 1 of the NBA Finals, Wright said: “If Jimmy Butler wins this title, he’ll replace James Harden as one of the 10 best guys to come into the league in the last 20 years. All rings don’t weigh the same. This would be a heavy ring.”

It’s a significant claim considering that Butler probably wouldn’t be in the conversation if this was based on regular season performance, but it’s also something that it’s hard to disagree with. Already, he’s led his Heat to the NBA Finals in 2020, was one shot away from doing the same in 2022, and now the NBA Finals in 2023 as the number eight seed. The legend of playoff Jimmy Butler continues to grow, and if he can somehow lead his crew of unheralded teammates to a championship against one of the most complete offensive sides we’ve seen in recent memory, it’s hard to argue with Nick Wright’s take.

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Jamal Murray headlines same-game parlay for Heat-Nuggets Game 1

The NBA Playoffs continue on Thursday night with the Miami Heat visiting the Denver Nuggets for Game 1 of the NBA Finals. With some of the league’s brightest stars front and center, FanDuel has us covered with a featured NBA same-game parlay for Heat-Nuggets Game 1. Below we continue our NBA Finals odds series with a Heat-Nuggets Game 1 same-game parlay featuring Jamal Murray.

Here are the Heat-Nuggets Game 1 same-game parlay odds, courtesy of FanDuel

NBA Same-Game Parlay Odds: Heat-Nuggets Game 1

Caleb Martin: 6+ Rebounds

Michael Porter Jr: 15+ Points

Jamal Murray: 3+ Made Threes

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Total Same-Game Parlay Odds: +268

Michaelle Beadle and the Run it Back crew teamed up with FanDuel to give us a juicy same-game parlay for Heat-Nuggets Game 1. It’s easy to see how this NBA same-game parlay comes together as the NBA Finals tips off. Caleb Martin continues to clean up the glass for the Heat while Michael Porter Jr. and Jamal Murray feast playing off Nikola Jokic.

To kick things off, Caleb Martin to record 6+ rebounds looks like the safest leg of the play with -220 odds. His rebounding exploded in the final two games of the Eastern Conference Finals when he snagged 15 and then 10 boards. While that propelled him to a strong 6.4 RPG average, those were the only two games of the series he snagged at least six boards. For the postseason, he recorded at least six rebounds in 5/18 games.

Going to Denver’s side, Jamal Murray to make 3+ threes (-220) and Michael Porter Jr. to score 15+ points (-145) hold similarly favorably odds. Looking at their recent trends, Murray has averaged 3.1 threes per game this postseason – nailing at least three triples in 8/15 games overall and 3/4 games last round. As for Porter Jr, he’s averaged 14.6 PPG this postseason. He scored at least 15 points in 9/15 games overall and 3/4 games last round.

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10 stars who level up their play in the NBA Playoffs

The NBA Playoffs are when the pressure is at its highest. Given that the coveted NBA championship is on the line, NBA stars are more likely to be motivated to play their best. Although the physicality and defense are much tougher, some stars have used it as an opportunity to shine brightly. For this piece, let’s take a look at 10 NBA stars who level up their play in the postseason.

Jimmy Butler

Career regular season averages: 18.2 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 1.6 steals, 0.5 blocks

Career playoffs averages: 21.3 points, 6.2 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 1.7 steals, 0.6 blocks

There isn’t much to say about Jimmy Butler when it comes to shining bright in the postseason, especially after taking the 2023 Eastern Conference Finals MVP to lead the Heat back into the Finals for the second time across four seasons. Butler is averaging 28.5 points per game in the ongoing postseason in contrast to his 22.9 points per game in the 2022-2023 regular season to lead an eight-seed squad to the Finals.

Nikola Jokic

Career regular season averages: 20.2 points, 10.5 rebounds, 6.6 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.7 blocks

Career playoffs averages: 27.3 points, 11.9 rebounds, 7.3 assists, 1.1 steals, 0.9 blocks

After missing out on his third straight MVP, Nikola Jokic is taking care of business under the bright lights of the NBA Playoffs. After averaging an impressive near triple-double during the regular season, he averaged a triple-double in the Western Conference Finals rematch against the Lakers. In the series, he put up 27.8 points, 14.5 rebounds, and 11.8 assists per game to clinch the Nuggets’ first Finals appearance and the Western Conference Finals MVP.

Jamal Murray

Career regular season averages: 16.9 points, 3.7 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.3 blocks

Career playoffs averages: 25.4 points, 4.9 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.3 blocks

While Nikola Jokic has been great, Jamal Murray certainly deserves his flowers after successfully coming back from a serious knee injury. After missing the entire 2021-2022 NBA season, Murray’s return has greatly benefited the Nuggets. His elite scoring of 32.5 points per outing in the Western Conference Finals proved to be vital in the Nuggets’ Finals clinching campaign. In fact, Murray’s scoring increased by almost nine points in the postseason compared to the regular season.

Stephen Curry

Career Season: 24.6 points, 4.7 rebounds, 6.5 assists, 1.6 steals, 0.2 blocks

Career Playoffs: 27.0 points, 5.3 rebounds, 6.2 assists, 1.5 steals, 0.3 blocks

Stephen Curry is one of the most decorated NBA stars today with four NBA championships, one Finals MVP, and two MVPs. And to become one of the most decorated players today, he has been great both in the regular season and in the playoffs. However, it’s worth noting that Curry becomes more aggressive in scoring when it matters most. He increases his scoring output and takes more threes per game in the postseason with 10.6 a game in contrast to 9.0 during the regular season. He also makes more with 4.2 per game from rainbow country.

Rajon Rondo

Career regular season averages: 9.8 points, 4.5 rebounds, 7.9 assists, 1.6 steals, 0.1 blocks

Career playoffs averages: 12.5 points, 5.6 rebounds, 8.5 assists, 1.7 steals, 0.2 blocks

There’s a reason why people claim that Playoff Rondo is just different. Back in the day, during his peak, Rondo proved to be the x-factor for the Celtics’ Big Three era in the late 2000s. In fact, it’s safe to say that he was responsible for sending LeBron James to South Beach after having a monster series. Fast forward to 2020, we got a last look at Playoff Rondo when he dropped 19 points, four rebounds, and four assists off the bench to win NBA championships with the two winningest franchises in league history.

Paul George

Career regular season averages: 20.6 points, 6.4 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 1.7 steals, 0.4 blocks

Career playoffs averages: 21.3 points, 7.5 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 1.5 steals, 0.5 blocks

Way before he was regarded as Pandemic P, there was Playoff P when Paul George starred for the Oklahoma City Thunder. Although George hasn’t been on teams with playoff success, that doesn’t take away from how individually great PG was back in the day. He put up 24.7 points per outing in his first series with the Thunder uniform to give himself the moniker.

Kawhi Leonard

Career regular season averages: 19.6 points, 6.4 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.7 steals, 0.6 blocks

Career playoffs averages: 21.4 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 1.8 steals, 0.7 blocks

Kawhi Leonard doesn’t really have plenty of MVP trophies. However, he does make up for it with a pair of NBA championships and Finals MVPs. As a result, it’s evident that The Klaw saves up most of his energy for postseason success. Despite being injury-riddled pretty much throughout the regular season, Leonard has proved that he can win in the postseason after helping the Spurs and the Raptors reach the pinnacle in 2014 and 2019 at the expense of two of the league’s greatest dynasties.

LeBron James

Career regular season averages: 27.2 points, 7.5 rebounds, 7.3 assists, 1.5 steals, 0.8 blocks

Career playoffs averages: 28.5 points, 9.0 rebounds, 7.2 assists, 1.7 steals, 1.0 blocks

Although LeBron James often draws flak for not being able to lead his team to the NBA championship more times than not in the NBA Finals, no one can take away his individual brilliance in the postseason. For one, he is the NBA’s leading scorer both in the All-Time scoring list and in the playoffs. Furthermore, he also ups his production during the playoffs on both ends of the floor to tally a total of four NBA championships and the same number of Finals MVPs with three different franchises.

Kevin Durant

Career regular season averages: 27.3 points, 7.1 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 1.1 steals, 1.1 blocks

Career playoffs averages: 29.4 points, 7.8 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 1.0 steals, 1.2 blocks

Kevin Durant is one of the most unstoppable scorers in the league today. Although he received a lot of heat from critics after making the jump to the Warriors and failing to lead the Nets to a championship, there’s no question that Durant is an ultimate player even during the postseason. He increases his scoring production and becomes more aggressive on the offensive end by attempting more shots with 20.8 per game. With his scoring, Durant has a pair of NBA championships and Finals MVPs to his name.

Draymond Green

Career regular season averages: 8.7 points, 7.2 rebounds, 6.8 assists, 1.4 steals, 1.0 blocks

Career playoffs averages: 11.6 points, 8.9 rebounds, 6.2 assists, 1.5 steals, 1.4 blocks

It’s safe to say that Draymond Green is one of the best all-around players in the league today. But while he has been great for the Warriors all throughout, there’s no question that Green shines the brightest when it matters most. A nightmare on the defensive end and a great facilitator on the offensive side, Green played an instrumental role in helping the Warriors win four NBA championships.

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2023 NBA Finals Odds: Nikola Jokic series points average prediction

The NBA Finals have finally arrived with the Miami Heat taking on the Denver Nuggets. With some of the game’s brightest stars at the center stage, Nikola Jokic stands alone as the premier player of the NBA Finals. The two-time MVP enters the Finals averaging a staggering 29.9 PPG through 15 playoff games. Consequently, FanDuel set the Finals MVP favorite’s series points prop sky-high. Can the Joker rise to the occasion or will he shrivel in the moment? Below we continue our NBA odds series with a Nikola Jokic series points prediction and pick.

Here are the Nikola Jokic series points odds, courtesy of FanDuel

NBA Finals Odds: Nikola Jokic Series Points Odds

Over: 27.5 (-113)

Under: 27.5 (-113)

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Why Nikola Jokic Will Average Over 27.5 Points

Despite averaging 29.9 this postseason, Nikola Jokic’s series point prop is set at a “measly” 27.5 PPG. Although he’s surpassed that for his playoff total average, his series-by-series totals are much closer. Take a look at his three series prior to the Finals:

MIN: 26.2 PPG (49%) | 2.2 3PM (50%) | 4.8 FTM (71%)

PHX: 34.5 PPG (59%) | 1.3 3PM (44%) | 5.8 FTM (85%)

LAL: 27.8 PPG (51%) | 2.0 3PM (47%) | 5.3 FTM (78%)

Thus far, Jokic averaged over 27.5 in two out of his three series. The only series he didn’t eclipse that total was their opening-round win against the Timberwolves. His field goal attempts remained steady in that series (19.8 FGA) and he shot the ball well from beyond the arc. However, an uncharacteristic series from the free-throw line did him in as he shot just 71%. Considering he is a career 83% free throw shooter, Jokic very easily could have hit that 27.5 PPG mark. All in all, Jokic has displayed the volume and efficiency to easily surpass 27.5 PPG in the Finals.

Now, let’s look at the matchup.

Since 2020-21 (Jokic’s first MVP season), the Joker holds a stellar 6-0 record against the Heat. Although he only averaged 22.2 PPG in those games, he did so on a measly 14.2 shot attempts per game. In fact, he eclipsed 14 shot attempts just once in six tries. He notably didn’t surpass 27 points in any of those six games but shot 64% overall in just 33.7 minutes per game. Factoring in his increased usage during the playoffs (38.9 minutes per game and 21.2 shot attempts per game) and it’s easy to see how he can have a field day. Additionally, while opposing center Bam Adebayo is known for his defensive prowess, Jokic stands two inches taller and weighs 30 lbs. more than him. Considering Miami lacks any size, Jokic has a clear advantage down low.

Why Nikola Jokic Will Average Under 27.5 Points

Despite Jokic’s stellar scoring mark, two major hurdles stand in his way from hitting the over in this series. First, Miami’s stellar defense could prove troublesome even for a player of Jokic’s caliber. Second, Jokic’s passing prowess and unselfish style could lead him to dominate the game in ways other than scoring.

Miami boasts one of the best defenses in the NBA and one of the best interior defenders in the league. Opponents are averaging a measly 24.1 FGA per game inside five feet – a place Jokic thrives. No one compares to Jokic, but looking at the big men who Miami has matched up against. Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo and Brook Lopez combined for 42.3 PPG – although Giannis was notably limited. The Heat held New York’s Julius Randle and Mitchell Robinson to just 24 PPG in the second round. Finally, Boston’s Al Harford and Robert Williams averaged a near 16.1 PPG. While none of these players (aside from Giannis) hold a tee to Jokic, it’s clear Miami’s defense has the chops to make life difficult on the inside.

While it may sound asinine on paper, Jokic dominating the series could actually hurt his ability to average 27.5 PPG. Above we pointed out that Jokic hasn’t once eclipsed 27 points against the Heat over the last three seasons. Yet, his team won all six matchups and Jokic was the clear best player on the floor. His unselfish style led to him attempting either 14 or 15 shot attempts in every game. That won’t do if he wants to hit the over on his points prop. He only averaged 26.9 PPG in their 12 playoff wins thus far – compared to a staggering 42 PPG in their three losses.

Final Nikola Jokic Series Points Prediction & Pick

This is a tough prop because of how unselfish Jokic is. He is the rare superstar who can (and will) dominate games without needing to score a boatload of points. That said, Jokic is on a mission to bring Denver their first championship. When push comes to shove, expect him to score – even if he doesn’t want to.

Final Nikola Jokic Series Points Prediction & Pick: Over 27.5 PPG (-113)

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‘I don’t need it’: Heat star Jimmy Butler reveals what he decided to do with ECF MVP trophy

There has been a lot of buzz surrounding the Eastern Conference Finals MVP title. In the end, it was Jimmy Butler who took home the trophy after leading the Miami Heat to an epic series win over the Boston Celtics. There were some folks who were campaigning for Caleb Martin to bag the title, but in the end, Butler did enough to edge out his Heat teammate.

As it turns out, however, Jimmy could care less about winning the MVP trophy. When asked where the piece of silverware is right now, the Heat talisman got brutally honest with his response:

“With my dad. I gave it to him. I don’t need it,” Butler said.

Jimmy Butler isn’t being disrespectful here. He appreciates the honor of being named the MVP of the series but in the end, it doesn’t really matter to him. This dude is all about winning, and up and until he gets his hands on an NBA title, Butler still wouldn’t have reached his ultimate goal. And so, this is exactly what he intends to do now that he has another opportunity to bag that elusive first championship.

Of all people, however, Jimmy Butler is well aware of the challenge that lies in front of them. Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets are considered the heavy favorites to win it all this season and as always, the Heat are the underdogs again. Butler and Co. have gotten used to this role and in fact, they have relished it.

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Kevin Durant, Dirk Nowitzki catching strays amid Nikola Jokic’s GOAT-level NBA Playoffs run with Nuggets

Chris Broussard of Fox Sports 1 is a huge Nikola Jokic fan. So much so, that the renowned broadcaster has come out with some GOAT-level praise amid the Denver Nuggets’ historic run in this season’s NBA Playoffs.

As the First Things First panel discussed the greatness of Nikola Jokic, Broussard and co-host Nick Wright argued that at this point, Jokic has claimed the leaderboard over the likes of both Charles Barkley and Kevin Garnett. Broussard then decided to throw some strays in the direction of Dallas Mavericks legend Dirk Nowitzki:

“[Jokic] is leading a team to a championship, and his numbers are outrageous. He averages a triple-double,” Broussard said. “… He’s better than Dirk. If he wins this championship he’s definitely better than Dirk. I think he’s just better than Dirk period. … I think Dirk is overrated by a lot of people. He’s great but I would put Jokic ahead of Dirk if he wins this championship, without question.”

Mavs fans obviously aren’t going to like this. Apparently, Broussard wants to ruffle some feathers among Phoenix Suns supporters as well as he compared Jokic to Kevin Durant:

“Not yet,” Broussard responded when asked if he thought that Jokic had already surpassed KD. “I think when Jokic’s career is all said and done, he’ll be ahead of Kevin Durant.”

Chris Broussard didn’t exactly say that Nikola Jokic is the greatest power forward who ever lived, but given the comparisons he’s decided to use here, this is probably as close as it gets.

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Heat’s Max Strus takes savage shot at Celtics after surviving epic 7-game war

Apart from the fact that Jimmy Butler has been playing like the best player in the entire league, the Miami Heat’s amazing NBA Playoffs run has also been characterized by the emergence of their undrafted sensations. Max Strus is one of them, and for those that don’t know, the 6-foot-5 forward actually started off his career with the Boston Celtics — the same team that the Heat just eliminated in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Strus played a key role for Miami in what turned out to be an epic seven-game series against the Celtics. At this point, the Heat swingman just wants to send a not-so-friendly reminder to everyone that Boston once decided to waive his services three years ago:

Max Strus even had a two-word caption in his post, which made it even more savage. “ECF CHAMPS,” he wrote.

Obviously, the Celtics did not believe at that time that Strus deserved a spot on their roster. He then signed a two-way contract with the Chicago Bulls — another team that the Heat eliminated in this NBA Playoffs run — where he ended up playing just two games in the 2019-20 season. Strus then signed with Miami the following season, and the rest, as they all say, is history.

Whichever way you put it, there’s no denying that Max Strus has a bit of ill will against the Celtics. He probably has nothing against the players or the organization, but it is clear that he hasn’t forgotten about their decision to cut him three years ago. For Strus, the revenge narrative is real.


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Denver Nuggets: 3 bold predictions for 2023 NBA Finals Game 1 vs. Heat

It’s NBA Finals time! The Denver Nuggets have the best opportunity in the franchise’s history to win a championship up against an eight-seed, but they won’t have it all their own way against the Miami Heat.

The Heat have continually played beyond their seeming capabilities in these playoffs, knocking off many people’s championship pick in the Milwaukee Bucks, as well as their replacement in the Boston Celtics. The revered Heat culture appears to be making its mark, and has earned them a well-deserved shot at the championship as a result.

But the Nuggets are the number one seed for a reason. With Nikola Jokic confirming himself as the best in the business and Jamal Murray looking every bit the elite offensive talent which he’s long promised to be, they enter this series, and particularly Game 1 on their home floor, very well-placed. Here are three bold predictions for the Nuggets NBA Finals Game 1 vs. Heat.

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3. Nikola Jokic has 30-13-13

After being edged out for his third consecutive MVP award by Joel Embiid, Nikola Jokic has re-established himself as the pre-eminent player in the eyes of the basketball world with an extraordinary playoff series to date. He’s averaging ridiculous numbers in the postseason – 29.9 points, 13.3 rebounds and 10.3 assists, to be exact – and is unequivocally the driving force behind Denver’s brilliant offense.

The Serbian sensation could hardly appear less awed by the bright lights of the NBA playoffs, and rather than wilt under the pressure he appears to simply realise that he needs to do more than he would in the regular season, and then do exactly that. From ridiculous step-back three-point heaves to over-the-head assists, he can seemingly do whatever he wants, and with the Nuggets attempting to establish supremacy in this series from the outset, expect him to do exactly that.

Jokic has cracked these figures – 30-13-13 – three times in the playoffs to-date. The first was a 30-17-17 effort in Game 3 against the Phoenix Suns, while the next two were a 34-21-14 masterpiece in Game 1 against the Los Angeles Lakers and 30-14-13 in Game 4. He’s clocked up these numbers in two of his last four games and very nearly three of his last six (he had 29-13-12 in Game 5 of the Suns’ series), and he should come out of the blocks hard and absolutely stuff the stats sheet – and do so efficiently, as always.

2. Denver Nuggets limit Miami Heat to under ten threes

One of the most striking features of Miami’s playoff run has been their three-point shooting. Let’s be clear – this is not a good shooting team. At least, I don’t think it is. In the regular season they took quite a lot – the tenth most in the league – but hit at just 34.4% – fourth worst in the league. In the playoffs, they’ve flipped that on its head, becoming the best long-range shooting team in the league.

They’ve hit 39.0% of their three-point attempts in the playoffs – the best of any team – and are hitting over 13 per game, and in their seven-game win over the Boston Celtics that number went up to an incredible 43.4%. Sometimes, stats are just unsustainable, and while the Heat seem to love to sustain seemingly unsustainable things, they will surely regress to the mean here.

Adding further to this idea is the fact that the Nuggets don’t typically give up many threes – the 33.1 per game their opposition had was the eighth lowest number in the league, and in the playoffs that’s dropped down to 28.9, and over the course of the season opponents have hit on just over 34% of them. Against the Nuggets size, the Heat will have to work hard for good looks, and it’s easy to see them failing to have the scoreboard impact from beyond the arc that they’ve had in recent times.

1. Denver Nuggets win Game 1 by 10+ points

If the above does come to fruition, things will be looking pretty dandy for the Denver Nuggets. There’s no doubting that they’ve got the more talented team; aside from having the best player in the series, they’ve also got a far more capable supporting cast. That’s not to discredit that of the Heat, a group which consistently exceeds their apparent capabilities and whose whole is so much greater than the sum of its parts. It is, however, a fact which it would be mighty difficult to dispute.

The Nuggets, as we all know, also love their home court. “It’s the altitude!” everyone cries. “And the Heat are fit.” Maybe. But the Nuggets are also really damn good, and with the added advantage of playing at home that every team enjoys, it’s no surprise that they don’t often get beat at Ball Arena. They were an incredible 34-7 at home this season, and perhaps even more incredibly, are now 8-0 there in the postseason.

Against the Lakers, both games played in Denver were close, but those aside the Nuggets have won each of their home playoff games this season by at least nine points and by an average of over 14 points. The Heat just keep on doing their thing and underestimating them is always fraught with danger, but the Nuggets should simply be too good in Game 1.

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Heat vs. Nuggets Game 1 prediction, odds, pick, how to watch – 6/1/2023

The NBA Finals begin Thursday night with the Miami Heat (44-38) visiting the Denver Nuggets (53-29). Game 1 tips off at 8:30 p.m. ET. The eight-seeded Heat represent the Eastern Conference, while the top-seeded Nuggets represent the West. Below we continue our NBA odds series with a Heat-Nuggets Game 1 prediction, pick, and how to watch.

Here are the Heat-Nuggets NBA odds, courtesy of FanDuel

NBA Playoffs Odds: Heat-Nuggets Odds

Miami Heat: +9 (-110)

Denver Nuggets: -9 (-110)

Over: 219.5 (-108)

Under: 219.5 (-112)

How To Watch Heat vs. Nuggets

TV: ABC, ESPN, ESPN Deportes

Stream: ESPN+

Time: ET/PT

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Why The Heat Could Cover The Spread

Miami has been the single-biggest story of the postseason. With their Game 7 win against the Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Heat not only became just the second No. 8 seed to make the Finals but they avoided becoming the first team to blow a 3-0 lead in playoff history. Miami completely flipped the script this postseason – going 12-5 against the spread after they had the worst cover rate in the regular season. That said, if they want to cover in Game 1 they’re going to need more of what got them here: defense, three-point shooting, and star play.

Miami featured a strong defense all season long as they ranked second in points allowed. While their points allowed are up slightly, they’ve still allowed just 107.4 PPG thus far. They’ve been especially stingy when defending the three – allowing just 12.3 made threes per game at a 32.5% clip. On the flip side, Miami has shot the three incredibly well themselves. Their 39% clip is the highest of any team in the postseason, while their 13.1 threes per game rank fifth. With four players averaging at least 2.1 threes per game, the Heat spread the floor and consistently put pressure on the opposing defense.

Perhaps the single-biggest reason Miami is here in the first place is Jimmy Butler. The six-time All-Star has taken his game up a level this postseason – averaging 28.5 PPG, 7.0 RPG, and 5.7 APG. While fatigue looked to slow him down towards the end of the Eastern Conference Finals, Butler’s playoff track record makes him incredibly difficult to bet against.

Looking at some of the trends, the Heat look to have a strong chance to cover given the large spread. Over the last 32 years, 7-9 point underdogs in the NBA Finals hold a strong 18-9-1 record against the spread. This pairs nicely with Denver’s recent struggles covering large spreads. Over their last 12 games, the Nuggets are just 4-8 against the spread when favorited by more than seven points.

Why The Nuggets Could Cover The Spread

Despite entering the playoffs as the Western Conference’s No. 1 seed, the Nuggets making the Finals was something of an upset. They entered with the sixth-best odds to win it all despite cruising through the regular season. Denver has faced little opposition thus far and is the overwhelming favorite to win both the series and Game 1. While the Heat pose a tough matchup, Nikola Jokic hasn’t lost against them over the last three seasons – compiling a 6-0 record.

While the Nuggets have a multitude of options to rely on, they will go where Nikola Jokic and Jamaal Murray take them. Both have been incredible this postseason – with Jokic leading the way with 29.9 PPG, 13.3 RPG, and 10.3 APG. The two-time MVP currently holds -340 odds to win Finals MVP – the biggest favorite in the past 20 years. His partner in crime, Murray, has been their biggest X-factor, however, and will play a major role in any potential cover in Game 1. He quickly erased any post-injury concerns and has averaged 27.7 PPG and 6.1 APG while shooting a blistering 40% from deep.

If you’re looking to bet on Finals’ trends, home teams are 21-11 against the speed and 25-7 straight up in Game 1 over the last 32 years. Since 2013, home favorites of 4.5 or more points in the Finals are 21-6 straight up and 18-8-1 against the spread.

Final Heat-Nuggets Prediction & Pick

The public money will likely come in heavily for the Heat given the large spread and casual sentiment for the underdog. However, we can’t ignore the significant rest difference these teams have. Denver will have nine days of rest in between their games… compared to Miami’s two days of rest. The Heat historically will face an uphill battle given that teams coming off a Game 7 into a Game 1 are 33-53 (38%) all-time. Additionally, teams with a 5+ day rest advantage in their first home game are 8-1 all-time – with the lone loss coming at the hands of Michael Jordan.

While trends aren’t the end-all, be-all, the Nuggets are also just a better team than the Heat and haven’t had any trouble with them in the Jokic era. Consequently, I’m all over the Nuggets in Game 1 despite the intimidating spread.

Final Heat-Nuggets Prediction & Pick: Denver Nuggets -9 (-110)

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