The NBA Finals begin on Thursday night with the Denver Nuggets (53-29, 34-7 home) hosting the Miami Heat (44-38, 17-24 away). Denver is playing in the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history while the Heat return to the finals for the sixth time.
The series opener tips off at 8:30 p.m. EST inside Ball Arena in Denver, Colorado. Denver is a nine-point favorite, and the over/under total is 219 points.
What to Know – Miami Heat
Miami, the eighth seed out of the Eastern Conference, made a return to the finals in an attempt to claim the franchise’s fourth title. The Heat got here via the play-in tournament and have sent Milwaukee, New York, and Boston home so far this postseason.
The Heat enter the finals averaging 111.7 points per game offensively while shooting 47.2% from the floor and 39.0% from three. Miami’s defense is holding opponents to 107.4 ppg, 45.7% shooting from the field and 32.5% from the 3-point line.
Miami’s offense has run through Jimmy Butler all postseason and it has worked tremendously. Butler is providing nearly 25% of the Heat’s offense while adding 7.0 rebounds and 5.7 assists per game. Bam Adebayo is next on the team adding 16.8 points and grabbing 9.2 boards per contest.
This season the Heat own a 44-55-3 record against the spread and a 23-27-1 mark ATS on the road. Miami is 0-6 ATS over its previous six games against the Nuggets.
What to Know – Denver Nuggets
The Nuggets earned the top seed in the West and made history with their first appearance in the finals. Denver knocked out Minnesota, Phoenix, and swept the Los Angeles Lakers in the conference finals to claim their first conference title.
Offensively, Denver is scoring 116.4 ppg thanks to 49.0% shooting from the field and 38.6% from beyond the arc. On defense, the Nuggets surrender 108.1 ppg, 47.2% shooting from the floor, and 34.2% from deep.
The tandem of Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray has gotten the West’s top team in the finals. Jokic has been a force, averaging 29.9 points and 13.3 rebounds over 15 postseason games. Murray scores 27.7 ppg and has been nearly automatic from the free throw, hitting 92.5% of his attempts from the charity stripe.
Denver sports a 53-43-1 record ATS and a home tally of 30-18-1 ATS. The Nuggets are 4-2 ATS over their last six playoff games.
The Pick is In
The NBA Finals is shaping up to be a David versus Goliath-like battle between the top team from the West and the unlikely eight-seed from the East. Denver has had an extended period to rest, and the Nuggets get the Heat on their home court, where they have won 83% of their contests this year.
It took seven games and a lot of effort for Miami to bounce the Celtics on Sunday. Expect the Heat to come out flat in the opener and Denver to jump out early and hold on for a comfortable opening victory.
The Pick: Denver Nuggets -9