3 props for Game 1 of Heat-Nuggets

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The battle for this year’s NBA crown begins Thursday night with Game 1 of the NBA Finals. The Miami Heat take on the Denver Nuggets at Ball Arena, where Denver has been unstoppable this season. However, Jimmy Butler and this Miami team has made a habit of doing the unthinkable, going from barely surviving the play-in tournament to Eastern Conference champions. Denver is a massive favorite, but Miami is the team with experience on its side. This will mark the seventh time Miami has played on the big stage for the NBA’s ultimate prize and the fourth time over the past decade. It’s Denver’s first dance in the finals and uncharted territory for its fans and the franchise as a whole.

I gave out my best bets and prediction for the series in our NBA Finals betting preview, so for this feature I will tackle some props for Game 1.

I can say with certainty the Heat will have a plan to deal with Nikola Jokić. I don’t have anywhere near the same level of confidence that they get it right on the first try. Defending Denver is a matter of picking your poison. It’s death by Jokić scoring at will or death by Jokić’s playmaking and allowing everyone else to join the party.

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The Lakers let Jamal Murray go nuclear and ended up getting swept. I won’t pretend to know what coach Erik Spoelstra has up his sleeve. Although it’s surely not a coincidence the Suns held Murray to his scoring average in the postseason (24.8 points per game) and were the only team to push Denver to six games. The Suns let Jokić get his, and he did, feasting for 53 points in a Game 4 loss and averaging 34.5 points in the series. I think that’s the path Spoelstra has to explore early, so I’ll lay off the triple-double props and play him to exceed this point total.

Jokic didn’t eclipse 27 points in any regular-season game against the Heat, but I’m not concerned knowing the playoffs is a whole new ball game. The Joker has beat this number in seven of his last 10 games, including the final five games of the Suns’ series.

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DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 30: Bam Adebayo #13 of the Miami Heat boxes out Nikola Jokic #15 of the Denver Nuggets during the third quarter at Ball Arena on December 30, 2022 in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by C. Morgan Engel/Getty Images)
Nikola Jokić vs. Bam Adebayo will be a crucial matchup in the NBA Finals. (Copyright 2022 NBAE/Photo by C. Morgan Engel/Getty Images)

Bam Adebayo over 2.5 turnovers (-120)

This isn’t a knock on Bam Adebayo’s cardio because everyone wearing a Heat jersey not named Caleb Martin looked spent at the end of the Boston series. One of the key indicators Miami was starting to wear down was the increase in sloppy turnovers throughout the back half of the series. Bam left it all on the court, flirting with a triple-double in Game 7 (12-10-7), but his four turnovers were a signal that his tank was getting close to empty. He has a massive task ahead of him in guarding Jokić and will have to work relentlessly on the defensive end of the floor.

It was instantly wheels up for Miami after disposing Boston, with the hopes of adapting to the elevation as quickly as possible. The Heat know it’s different in Denver. I’m going to bet Bam’s sloppiness continues in his first game chasing the Joker on the two-time MVP’s home floor. Adebayo averaged three turnovers per game against Boston and fell under this prop in only two of the seven games. I will bet he gives it up three times while Miami struggles to keep pace with the Nuggets’ offense.

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Miami doesn’t really have the size to deal with 6-foot-10 Michael Porter Jr., which sets him up nicely to carve out a role in his first NBA Finals. This prop at 22.5 is in line with his playoff averages (14.6 ppg and 8 rpg), but based on the Western Conference finals, I am willing to bet we haven’t seen the best version of the Nuggets small forward.

Porter Jr. recorded double-doubles in three of the four games against the Lakers by being more aggressive on the boards. His 15-point, 10-rebound performance in the final game of the series was his fifth double-double in his last eight games. Now, he carries that momentum against a smaller Heat defense that is fresh off a mentally exhausting seven-game series. Porter scored at least 14 points in every game of the Western Conference finals, so if he can duplicate his recent scoring production, I am confident he scoops up enough boards to cash this bet for us.



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