NBA Finals Best Bets for Thursday: Nuggets vs. Heat Game 1 odds, picks, predictions, & SuperDraft props

Jimmy Butler Miami Heat

The 2023 NBA Finals matchup is finally set, with two-time MVP Nikola Jokic and the steadily rocking Nuggets taking on Jimmy Butler and his grim underdog Heat. Denver will host Game 1 at the Ball Arena on Thursday (8:30 p.m. ET, ABC), with the West No. 1 currently leading by a whopping 8.5 points.

To get to this point, these teams took opposite paths. Miami had to play two games in the NBA Play-In tournament to sneak into the playoffs through the back door after defeating the 10th-seeded Bulls. Erik Spoelstra’s squad then took care of the battered Bucks in five games, the ailing but undermanned Knicks in six games, and just days ago won Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the battered Jayson Tatum and the sometimes-great Celtics.

Just writing that made me tired. Now look at Denver, the leader in the West. Mike Malone’s squad delivered the gentleman’s sweep against a dysfunctional Wolves team, then defeated the Suns without Chris Paul in six games before beating LeBron James and the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals. Fifteen games – fast, clean, painless. These nuggets are like killers.

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As we’ve come to expect from him, Jokic was exceptional in that playoff run. His excellent vision, monstrous rebound, and offensive versatility make him almost impossible to contain, let alone conquer. When Jamal Murray starts to boil — like he did in the 2020 bubble and this year’s Western Conference Finals — and the “others” in this well-put together roster start to get hot, Denver is looking like a wrecking ball.

However, as we’ve seen throughout the postseason, Jimmy Butler isn’t easy to defeat. The Eastern Conference Finals MVP averaged 24.7 points, 7.6 rebounds, 6.1 assists and 2.6 steals in less than 40 minutes per game against the Celtics. Additionally, Caleb Martin has gone from being an under-the-radar role player to a championship X-factor. His scoring stats were all lower (19.3/6.4/1.7/0.9) than Butler’s in the ECF, but his ice-cold offense saved the heat multiple times. He averaged 21 ppg in Miami’s four wins and finished the ECF with a 60/49/88 shot rating.

Will the rested Nuggets hold the field in Game 1 and edge out a tired Heat squad, or will Miami take its momentum from the Eastern Conference Finals and deliver the first punch of the 2023 NBA Finals? Let’s take a look at the odds for the opener of this championship round duel on Thursday night, revealing our best bets and favorite BetMGM props.

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Nuggets vs. Heat Game 1 odds, tips and predictions

Odds courtesy of BetMGM, an NBA Authorized Gaming Operator. Click here to login

  • spread: Nuggets -8.5 (-115) | Heat +8.5 (-105)
  • In total: OVER 219.5 (-110) | BELOW 219.5 (-110)
  • money line: nuggets -375 | Heat +290

Oddsmakers are obviously not worried about Jokic and company suffering from rust as the rested nuggets are close to the double-digit favorites for Game 1. This is no surprise considering Denver has had an NBA best since the start of the 2022-23 NBA season at Ball Arena, 42-7 (0.857 winning percent). Only the Warriors had a better home cover rate than the Nugs at 62.5 percent.

But the underdog role is no stranger to the Heat. Miami was listed as an underdog in 14 of their 18 games during the playoffs, coming out with a 9-5 record straight up and an 11-3 record against the spreads. If you count Butler, Martin, and perennial all-defensive Big Bam Adebayo in every exchange of blows, they’ll punch you in the mouth and keep swinging until the closing bell.

MORE: What the betting odds are telling us about Miami’s unlikely run

Of course, nobody fights better and with more effortless persistence than Jokic. Ever since the tall Serb took over the NBA, opponents have tried to claw, scrape and smash the Joker to no avail. He never stops, whether it’s finding the open man, executing the clutch shot at the end of a shot clock, or grabbing multiple attack boards in a row. He’s a matchup nightmare in every sense of the word.

Adebayo is certainly losing his sleep at the moment thinking about defending the big man. Jokic averaged 23 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists in two games against Miami this season and 23.5/15/8.5 against the Heat in the 2021-22 season. He’s beaten Bam on the block and gangs, forcing Spoelstra to put in place a number of different defensive plans simply to try to contain Joker. Nothing worked.

MORE NUGGETS HEAT:
Series-long props, best bets | X Factors, Jokic vs. Butler, H2H Records, more

Since the start of the 2020-21 season, Denver has recorded a perfect 6-0 against the Heat. The Nuggets date back to 17 and are 12-2 against Miami. In the 10 games these two teams have met since January 2019, Denver have edged the team 9-1. total dominance.

You can follow your rust rest narratives or support the bullish underdogs all you want – we just don’t see a scenario where the Nuggets, a dominant home team with 10 rest days, lay an egg in Game 1. Denver posted an NBA-best of 18-4 SU and 14-7-1 ATS with rest advantage and dominated the ball arena all year.

If Miami picks up two wins this entire series, the NBA will be victorious, but we’ll be shocked if the Heat pull off an upset in Game 1 after only going 12 rounds (or rather, seven games) against the Celtics. Give us the chalk with the OVER. These two teams have gone OVER in five straight encounters, with Denver scoring over 120 three times and not falling below 112 once.

Forecast: Nuggets 120, Heat 108. The Nuggets (-8.5) Cover the spread while the game is in progress ABOVE the grand total (219.5)

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Best SuperDraft Player Prop Bet for Nuggets vs. Heat: Jimmy Butler OVER 7.5 rebounds

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With top Heat rebounder Adebayo set to face Jokic in all series, continuing to bring down the gangs will be essential for Butler to give Miami a chance in this series. The Joker has consistently been in double figures against the Heat, allowing Butler to parry eight rebounds for the fifth time in his last seven postseason starts.

Other Nuggets Heat SuperDraft props we like: Nikola Jokic OVER 27.5 Points, Nikola Jokic OVER 10 Assists, Bam Adebayo UNDER 29.5 Points + Rebounds + Assists

Dave Gallo

Dave Gallo is a pioneering sports analytics expert, renowned for his revolutionary work in AI-driven sports simulations, projections, and advanced statistical analysis. With a profound passion for sports and technology, he crafts cutting-edge computer models that accurately predict outcomes. Dave's game-changing insights have reshaped strategy, player evaluation, and decision-making across various sports. His dynamic presentations make complex analytics accessible and inspiring, ensuring his legacy as a visionary in sports analytics. Check out Dave's Pick Record.

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