The NBA Finals have arrived, and this series matchup does not match expectations for many fans.
The Denver Nuggets were an under-appreciated powerhouse who swept their way to victory in the Western Conference throughout the season, earning themselves the No. 1 seed and being considered an NBA powerhouse by many pundits.
The Miami Heat were an underdog team and just minutes away from being eliminated entirely from playoff contention, yet somehow managed to unseat both of the top seeds in the Eastern Conference, including a possible comeback attempt from Boston Celtics, before making it all the way into the Finals. Many were skeptical even before starting round one, with many doubting they'd even make it that far.
Miami deserves full credit for reaching this point, yet they did have assistance along the way.
The Heat used blazing shooting to achieve two major series victories against tough teams while getting critical injuries to each side's best player in key moments - it all counts the same, but keeping this perspective in mind as they move on against a fully healthy and rested Nuggets squad is essential to their success moving forward.
Nikola Jokic elevated Denver's offense to new heights this season thanks to his brilliant playmaking. Clutch plays such as this were made seem effortless all season:
The Nuggets finished second in Effective Field Goal Percentage during the regular season while Miami's defense ranked 26th in Opponent eFG%; Denver was third-best for 2-Point percentage while Miami was second-worst.
The Nuggets' offense has excelled even more impressively during the playoffs. Their free-throw rate, turnover rate, offensive rebounding, five of six rotation players with 59% True Shooting or higher and their playoff Offensive Rating of 119.7 would set an NBA regular season record.
Miami's defense isn't equipped to face this challenge, and Bam Adebayo has long struggled against Jokic. Furthermore, as Miami gives more minutes to shooters such as Duncan Robinson or (eventually) Tyler Herro in search of offense, their troubles worsen.
Denver's defense may be flawed in many ways, but Miami doesn't possess players who can pressure the rim effectively to take advantage of one of Denver's key weaknesses: 3-point percentage allowable. One thing the Nuggets excel at limiting is opponent 3-pointers: they rank top three in both allowed 3s per game and 3-point percentage allowed in playoff games; they allow just 9.9 3s per game on average compared with 10.6 allowed by Miami during that span; even restricting Miami 3 point volume could prove fatal for an offense that has barely improved beyond just making 3s.
Denver has proven itself adept at stopping both of these elements from occurring; therefore, unless the Heat can win those two battles decisively, this matchup could end quickly for them.>h2>Will the Heat pull the upset?
Last round we picked Miami over Boston even though Boston was clearly superior on paper because Miami had so many ways to steal games from them. That path may now be narrower against Denver.
Miami can find success through explosive shooting; but Denver will limit threes and its offense will consistently put up big numbers.
The Heat may try to throw off their opponents by creating havoc early and winning in crunch time; but Denver holds a significant first-quarter and first half lead against Miami and has proven equally capable in second halves and clutch situations.
Erik Spoelstra can make miraculous coaching adjustments -- but Michael Malone is excellent enough to not create as much mismatch as Spo did over three rounds. Denver may be making their NBA Finals debut but I wrote extensively on why that shouldn't be seen as a problem either.
Denver outdoes Miami at home, going 8-0 straight up in the playoffs and 42-7 overall for the year compared to 17-24 on the road with a negative Net Rating in regular season play compared to Boston coming off of Game 7. And unlike Boston, after going into an Eastern Conference finals after just winning Game 7, Miami now faces rest and health deficit issues while playing away at elevation.
Butler appears to be running on fumes and suffering from his ankle injury that re-aggravated itself during Game 7.
The Nuggets won both meetings between these teams this season. Both games were close.
The point spread scares me at -8, but the Heat should be a tired team on the road against a dominant home team. Take the Nuggets and give the points.
I am going for the over here as I think the Nuggets will be on fire early and will put up a lot of points. I look for a 115-104 win for the Nuggets.
📅 Date: Thursday, June, 01
🕚 Game Time: 08:30 pm
📺 How to Watch: ABC
Venue: Ball Arena
Players must be 21 years of age or older or reach the minimum age for gambling in their respective state and located in jurisdictions where online gambling is legal. Please play responsibly. Bet with your head, not over it. If you or someone you know has a gambling problem, and wants help, call or visit: (a) the Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey at 1-800-Gambler or www.800gambler.org; or (b) Gamblers Anonymous at 855-2-CALL-GA or www.gamblersanonymous.org.
This site is using Cloudflare and adheres to the Google Safe Browsing Program. We adapted Google's Privacy Guidelines to keep your data safe at all times.