NBA Finals Picks: Betting Advice and Analysis for Denver vs. Miami
For just the second time in the history of the NBA, a No. 8 seed will be in the Finals.
The Miami Heat avoided becoming the first team to blow a 3-0 series lead and will face the Denver Nuggets in the Finals after a 103-84 victory over the Boston Celtics Monday in Boston.
How do the NBA betting sites see the matchup? We'll look at that and give you our betting advice for the series.
Heat Potential for Historic Title Run
The Heat are just four games away from becoming one of the biggest in-season sports betting underdogs to win an NBA title. Miami opened the year at +1800 on PointsBet but saw its odds fluctuate to +4000 after a slow start and rose to +8000 in April when the Heat appeared poised to make the play-in games.
Once the Heat advanced past the Chicago Bulls and were set to face the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks, the Heat’s title odds were as high as +25000, becoming the fifth eight-seed to beat a No. 1 team.
As it stands, if the Heat beat the Nuggets, they would be the biggest longshots to win a title in the futures market. The 1995 Houston Rockets and 2011 Dallas Mavericks both won championships at +1800 before the start of the playoffs.
Even with making the Finals, the Heat are still sizeable underdogs. Denver is favored at -480 on FanDuel, while Miami is at +330.
With the NBA Finals upon us, here is where we’re leaning before the series starts.
Denver Comes in As a Heavy Favorite
Series spread: Denver Nuggets -1.5 (-150) DraftKings Sportsbook
In every series besides the conference semifinals, the Heat have been sizable underdogs and I’ve picked against them when they played the Bucks and Celtics and was burned twice. But we’re returning to the same series spread bet, mainly because of Denver’s historically efficient offense.
The Nuggets have scored 119.7 points per 100 possessions over their 15 playoff games, which is the best rating a team has had through three rounds of the playoffs in the last six years. Denver put those numbers up against defenses that ranked 10th, seventh and 12th in the regular season. As impressive as the Los Angeles Lakers' defense was against the Golden State Warriors, the Nuggets scored 15.8 more points per possession (122.3) than the Lakers had allowed through the first two rounds (106.5).
Much of Miami’s success during the regular season and playoffs has been because of its ability to force turnovers. The Heat ranked third in opponent turnover rate, and in the playoffs, Jimmy Butler has 10 more steals than anybody else with 35. But one of Denver’s best assets has been its ability to maximize possessions. Denver’s assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.27 is the second-best mark for a playoff team with at least 10 games played in the last 25 years.
Besides holding a statistical advantage, it’s hard to see how Miami matches up personnel-wise with Denver. Nikola Jokic, averaging 29.9 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists this postseason, had no issues against the Heat the last time the two teams met up as he made 12 of 14 shot attempts.
Besides Jokic and attempting to stop the dribble-handoffs between Murray and Jokic, another interesting thing to watch is how Miami matches up with Michael Porter Jr. The 6-foot-10 forward is averaging 14.6 points and making 41% from 3 this season and presents a defensive issue for a Miami team with shorter wings ranging from 6-5 to 6-7. We saw Denver repeatedly attack defensive mismatches against the Lakers, with Porter regularly shooting over smaller defenders like Austin Reaves. Porter’s elite shotmaking is a great complement to what Jokic and Murray do offensively.
Overall, Denver has too many offensive options for Miami. If the Heat look to utilize the zone that worked effectively against the Celtics, the Nuggets are more well-equipped to exploit it, given Jokic’s size and passing ability from the high post. There are plenty of shooters around Jokic, too. As a team, Denver is shooting 39% from 3 this postseason, with five guys making over 35% from beyond the arc.
Miami has made a memorable run up to this point, but Denver’s offensive arsenal will be too much to overcome.
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