One of the most unpredictable NBA seasons in a long time will end with one of the Denver Nuggets or Miami Heat making history.
Following their sweep of the Los Angeles Lakers, the Denver Nuggets are rested and ready to take on a Miami Heat team that needed seven games to beat the Boston Celtics to reach the NBA Finals.
It looked as though we’d have the best part of a week to prepare for this series. The Nuggets held up their end of the bargain to beat the Lakers in Game 4. However, the Heat stumbled from 3-0 to needing four more games to seal the series win.
Now, either the Nuggets will win their first-ever championship, or the Heat will become the first team in NBA history to lift the Larry O’Brien Trophy as an 8th seed.
With the Nuggets at $1.22 to win the series and Nikola Jokic at $1.25 to win the NBA Finals MVP the markets suggest this is all a bit of a foregone conclusion. We know better than to doubt the Heat, though…
Rested & Ready
The first consideration outside of Denver’s deep roster is how long they’ve had to rest. By thumping the Lakers as quickly as they could, the Nuggets will have seven more days of rest than the Heat. Historically, that puts them in a very, very good position to win it all.
When teams with seven days rest have played at home in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, they’re 8-1 (.889). While home teams do tend to win at home anyway, the 88.9% they win when coming in after that much rest is considerably better than the overall winning percentage of Game 1 home teams of 76.3%.
For the series, a team with home-court advantage and at least five days extra rest are 8-1 all-time in the NBA Finals.
The Nuggets are $1.27 and -8.5 favourites to win the series opener.
Keys To Victory
Nikola Jokic: This one is fairly obvious. Eric Spoelstra is arguably the best coach in the NBA right now so it’s going to be interesting to see how he scheme’s against the true MVP of the league. The Nuggets are deep. It’s their best strength. But it’s only used in such a dangerous way because Jokic is at the forefront. He’s not only capable of doing whatever is required whether it be setting screens, running as the ball-handler in a pick-and-roll or taking on the load as a scorer, but he’s willing to do whatever is necessary to win. He plays without an ego which allows the rest of the Nuggets roster to fall into spots they can be successful. If he is able to have his way and replicate the 27.8 points, 14.5 rebounds and 11.8 assists per game he averaged in the Western Conference Finals, the Heat won’t be able to win four games.
Supporting Cast: NBA media members continue to overthink simple awards. Somehow, four of the nine members didn’t vote Jimmy Butler in as the Eastern Conference Finals MVP. Miami is here because of Butler. He did, however, receive some timely help from his supporting cast. Gabe Vincent, Caleb Martin and Duncan Robinson all chimed in at times. Martin’s combined 47 points in Games 6 and 7 earned him MVP votes.
Players with 200+ points on 55+ FG% and 40+ 3P% this playoffs:
— Devin Booker
— Caleb Martin
That’s it. pic.twitter.com/jky1u7LQIq
— StatMuse (@statmuse) May 30, 2023
It’s crucial that the Heat continue to find somebody to score alongside Butler. Similar to Jokic, Butler doesn’t need to be the one scoring. He will play the role needed on the day. The more time he isn’t being leaned on offensively, the more time he can dedicate to dominating on the defensive end. Denver’s 121 offensive rating is the fourth-best in NBA playoff history. If Butler and the Heat aren’t making things difficult for the Nuggets with their defence, they’re not winning more than two games.
NBA Finals Markets
As already covered, the Nuggets are significant $1.22 favourites to end the series as NBA Finals champions to the Heat’s $4.33. It is expected to be all over in five games ($2.80) with a 4-0 sweep the most unlikely outcome at $5.10. Unsurprisingly, Jokic is the heavy favourite to win NBA Finals MVP at $1.25 with Butler on the second line of betting at $5. Jamal Murray is the only other early contender for the award at $11.
Jokic doesn’t need to score to be the best player in the series but is at $2.15 to lead the NBA Finals in points scored. Butler ($2.70) and Murray ($3.60) round out the top three. Meanwhile, Murray is the favourite to lead the series in made three-point shots at $1.72. Michael Porter Jr. hit at least three in all four games against the Lakers and comes in on the third line of betting at $3.40 while Gabe Vincent will need a repeat of his six three’s in Game 2 against the Celtics is he’s to threaten at $11.50.
Both of these teams led 3-0 in the Conference Finals and while the Nuggets are at a relatively short $2.95 to do it again in the NBA Finals, the Heat’s $23 suggest it won’t come quite so easy for them early on in this series.
NBA Finals Individual Markets
|TEAM||NBA FINALS MVP||SCORING LEADER||THREES MADE LEADER|
|Michael Porter Jr.||$151||$61||$3.40|
NBA Finals Tips
If there’s one thing we can rely on, it’s that Jimmy Butler will come out firing in Game 1. We backed him in to start well in the Eastern Conference Finals and are going back to the well for the NBA Finals. The Over appeals in his points + assists combo with the line set at 33.5.
For the series, Murray to finish as the top point scorer is the eye-catcher. He averaged 32.5 points, 6.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game in the conference finals. In career-best form and as the most likely go-to scorer when the Nuggets are in need of a bucket, his $3.60 is worth investigating. Particularly when you consider he’s the $1.72 favourite to make the most shots from beyond the arc.
With the first four games of the series split with two home games each before going back and forth through to Game 7, the series to last six games is the play at $3.50. The Nuggets are excellent at home and have proven throughout the playoffs that they can take that form on the road. More specifically the exact order of G1. DEN G2. DEN G3. MIA G4. MIA G5. DEN G6. DEN at $15.