A fourth-quarter push by Miami made things interesting but Denver still prevailed, 103-94, to cover the 9-point spread in the series opener. The Nuggets are 8.5-point favorites for Sunday’s Game 2 at Ball Arena, where they are undefeated in the playoffs.
The Heat had stolen Game 1 in each of their previous three playoff series against the Bucks, Knicks and Celtics, respectively, to get off to an early lead over their higher-seeded opponents. Denver denied them that advantage and has moved to a -901 favorite at SI Sportsbook to win the title.
Below are four betting picks and one key question for Game 2 of the NBA Finals, which tips off at 8 p.m. ET Sunday on ABC.
Jimmy Butler Dishes More Dimes: Bet Butler Over 6.5 Assists
Butler’s 13 points on Thursday were a playoff-low and he attempted just 14 shots, well shy of his 20.2 average. He wasn’t as aggressive searching for scoring opportunities as he has been in the past but he did get his teammates involved with a team-high seven assists. And given how poorly Miami shot from outside in Game 1 (Max Strus was 0-9 from three and Duncan Robinson finished 1-5), a bounce-back shooting night could mean more assist opportunities going forward. Butler was good for 6.1 dimes on average in the Celtics series and he never had fewer than five across those seven games. He’s gone over his assists prop six times in his last 10 outings, though just once in four tries in games where the over/under was set at 6.5.
Miami Keeps Things Close in Game 2: Bet Heat +8.5
The Heat nearly had a backdoor cover in the series opener despite taking an NBA Finals record-low two free throws. They also shot below 41% from the field and 33% from beyond the arc, a substantial dropoff from their playoff marks of 46.8% and 38.7%, respectively. A bounce-back performance is in order for Miami, which is 7–4 against the spread on the road in the postseason. The fact that the Nuggets were held to 104 points is a point in favor of the Heat — they just need more offense from Butler, Martin and Strus to stay within striking distance.
Nikola Jokić Fills Up the Stat Sheet, Again: Bet Jokić Over 23.5 Rebounds + Assists
There have been 12 triple doubles in the postseason. Bam Adebayo, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Steph Curry each have one — Jokić accounts for the other nine. He went for an efficient 27/10/14 line in his first-ever Finals game, his second triple double in a row and sixth in seven games. Jokić’s rebounding (13.1) and assist numbers (10.5) are truly staggering in the playoffs, so much so that his odds to record a triple double in Game 2 are -145. But you can get better odds (-125) by just betting the over on his combined rebounds and assists prop. He’s hit the over in three of his last five outings.
Michael Porter Jr. Keeps the Streak Alive: Bet Porter to Record a Double Double
Even though his outside shot wasn’t falling (2-11 from three), Porter got busy on the boards and collected 13 rebounds in Game 1, a playoff high. That was his third consecutive double double and his fourth in five games. His Game 2 rebounding prop is set at 8.5 (up from 7.5 in Game 1) but he’s available to record another double double at +190 odds, the fourth-longest behind Jokić, Adebayo and Butler. The payout there is much more enticing, especially considering Porter has finished with 10 or more points in all but one game in the playoffs.
Will the Nuggets’ Offense Return to Form?
Denver’s 104 points on Thursday were the second-fewest the team has scored in the postseason and was well under its 115.3 average. In spite of great games from Jokić and Jamal Murray (26 points, 10 assists), the Nuggets had a subpar shooting performance from beyond the arc (8-27). The fewest points they scored in the entire Lakers series was 108 in Game 2, so there’s something to be said about the Heat’s defense, which also held Boston to 84 points in Game 7 of the Eastern Finals. The under for the second game of the series has ticked down to 214 from 219 in Game 1 and Denver’s team total is set at 111.5.
NBA Playoffs Betting Record: 31–30
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