Heat vs. Nuggets NBA Finals Game 1 Preview and Prediction
HEAT VS. NUGGETS NBA FINALS GAME 1 PREVIEW AND PREDICTION – Greetings basketball fans. Welcome back to our NBA playoffs coverage here at Godzilla Wins. We are down to the final two teams of the postseason tournament. The No. 8 seed Miami Heat are champions of the Eastern Conference. And their counterpart is the Denver Nuggets – the team that finished with the best record in the Western Conference.
Despite their seedings, both ball clubs can be considered Cinderella teams for different reasons. And while this may not have the same level of excitement as watching LeBron James going up against Stephen Curry, this will be a memorable NBA Finals series.
So, without further delay, here is a breakdown of Game 1 as well as my thoughts on which team has the edge and why.
(0-0 SU in Series)
(0-0 SU in Series)
When: Thursday, June 1, 2023 at 8:30 PM ET
Where: Ball Arena, Denver, CO
Public Money: Heat, 53%
Public Bets: Nuggets, 91%
Odds courtesy of DraftKings as of June 1, 2023
How We Got Here – Heat Edition
We will start this discussion with the Miami Heat. To be honest, the road to the Finals for this team has been anything but easy. The Heat lost their first play-in game against the Atlanta Hawks and they were just three minutes away from being eliminated from the postseason altogether by the Chicago Bulls.
Based on the team’s performances, the Heat did not seem like a team that was destined for an extended postseason run. But this is why the games are played, right?
They eliminated the top-seeded Bucks in five games. Not only did Milwaukee have the best record in the eastern conference. It had the best record in the entire league. Not even double-digit deficits in the fourth quarter of the last two games of that series could prevent Miami from moving on to the next round against the New York Knicks – a team that had not advanced to the second round since 2012-13. Miami managed to eliminate them in six games. As a result, the Heat would be matched up against the Boston Celtics for the third time in four seasons. As you recall, the series between these squads went the distance last season, with Boston prevailing in seven games. Miami was hoping to rewrite the ending after coming up short last season.
As it had done in the first two rounds, Miami took the first game of the series and then surprised everyone by taking the second game in Boston as well. The Heat looked unstoppable following a 128-102 rout in Game 3.
But then the Celtics found their footing and won each of the next three games to force a winner-take-all Game 7 on their home floor at TD Garden. There had been 150 teams that went down 0-3 in league history and each of those teams went on to lose the series. But with the momentum clearly on their side, the Celtics were looking to become the first team to do so. However, Miami played like the team we had seen in the first three games of the series, and they went on to win the series finale by a 103-84 margin.
As has been the case all season, the Heat are not being given much of a chance against the Nuggets, and they are fine with that. It will be interesting to see if they can play with enough of a chip on their shoulder for one more series and do the unthinkable – becoming the first play-in tournament team to not only make it to the Finals but win it all as well.
How We Got Here – Nuggets Edition
Yep. The Nuggets were the best team in the Western Conference. But few viewed them as a legitimate championship contender when the playoffs began. Perhaps it had something to do with the team having just one conference finals appearance on its resume since the 2008-09 campaign. But as was the case with Miami, this ball club tuned out all the outside noise.
As expected, they ousted an inexperienced Minnesota Timberwolves team in five games in the opening round. But the series against the Phoenix Suns would surely have a different outcome, right?
After all, that team featured two of the most talented scorers in the NBA in Kevin Durant and Devin Booker. While the duo helped Phoenix play the Nuggets to a stalemate in the first four games, Denver took Game 5 and cruised to an easy 125-100 in the series finale.
The team’s reward was a matchup against LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and the Los Angeles Lakers. The same team that eliminated Denver from the conference finals three seasons ago.
This time, though, Denver would not be denied. Not only did Denver prevail, they beat the Lakers in four straight games to earn the team’s first trip to the NBA Finals.
Head coach Mike Malone stated that beating the Heat will be the toughest challenge they have faced in the postseason. Will that statement prove to be accurate or will the Nuggets breeze by yet another opponent on its way to its first championship?
Here are my betting trends for Game 1.
The O/U total opened at 218.5 points. The line has moved slightly to 219 points.
During the playoffs, the two teams are averaging a combined 228.1 points per contest. And in their two regular season games the OVER total prevailed in both instances.
The OVER total has hit 10 times in Denver’s last 11 games when facing a team with an overall winning record. Miami was 44-38 during the regular season and 12-6 in the playoffs.
In Denver’s last seven games in which it is playing on three or more days of rest, the OVER total has it in six of those contests.
The OVER is 20-7 in Miami’s last 27 games in which it scored more than 100 points in its previous outing. Miami won Game 7 over Boston 103-84.
The OVER has an 8-3 record in the Heat’s last 11 road games against teams with a winning home record. Denver was 34-7 at home during the regular season and it is a perfect 8-0 in the postseason.
The OVER total has hit 20 times in Miami’s last 28 games when playing against teams that allowed 100 or more points in their previous outing. Denver gave up 111 points to the Los Angeles in the series finale.
The OVER has a 4-0 record in the least four head-to-head meetings in Denver and is 5-0 in the last five meetings between these two teams.
Prediction: OVER 219 points
The Nuggets initially opened as a consensus six-point favorite for Game 1. That line has moved to (-9)
Denver holds a 5-2 record against the spread (ATS) in its last seven games that were played on three or more days of rest. Denver’s last game was May 22nd.
The Nuggets are 7-3 ATS in their last 10 home games and 13-6 ATS in their last 19 games against teams with an overall winning record.
Meanwhile, Miami is 8-2 ATS in its last 10 games against opponents with a winning percentage of .600 or better. The Nuggets winning percentage in the regular season was .646 and their postseason winning percentage is .800.
The Heat are 6-2 ATS in their last eight road contests and 6-2 ATS in their last eight road games against teams with a winning home record.
Miami is 9-3 ATS in the last 12 games it has faced an opponent that allowed 100 or more points in its previous outing and 12-4 ATS when playing against teams with an overall winning record.
I understand that the Nuggets have had plenty of time to prepare for the Heat, thanks in part to the Miami coughing up a 3-0 lead.
However, Miami has proven to be a resilient team. And since they have won the first game on the road in each of their playoff series, this game is going to be more competitive than what the odds say.
Prediction: Miami Heat (+9)
Player Prop Bet
My key player to watch is Nikola Jokic. Not only is he a two-time most-valuable player, the Nuggets big man is averaging a triple-double for the ENTIRE postseason. Let that sink in for a minute. Yes, Jokic is averaging a triple-double this postseason (29.9 points, 13.3 rebounds, and 10.3 assists per contest). Talk about complete insanity.
The last two players to average a triple-double going into a Finals series were Wilt Chamberlain (1967) and Magic Johnson (1982). In both instances, those ball clubs went on to win the championship.
Nuggets center Nikola Jokić is averaging 29.9 points, 13.3 rebounds and 10.3 assists in the 2023 NBA Playoffs.
— NBA Communications (@NBAPR) May 28, 2023
Jokic currently has -115 odds to score more than 27.5 points and -115 odds to score less than 27.5 points. In his last 10 playoff games, Jokic has scored 28 or more points seven times.
Taking that stat into consideration, I am betting on the OVER here.
Prediction: Nikola Jokic OVER 27.5 points
OVER 219 points
PPB: Nikola Jokic OVER 27.5 points