NBA Finals Odds & Picks: Chris Raybon’s Expert Picks for Heat vs. Nuggets Game 1

NBA Finals Odds & Picks: Chris Raybon’s Expert Picks for Heat vs. Nuggets Game 1 article feature image

Via Garrett Ellwood/Getty Images. Pictured: Aaron Gordon #50 of the Denver Nuggets dribbles the ball during Round 3 Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals 2023 NBA Playoffs against the Los Angeles Lakers on May 16, 2023 at the Ball Arena in Denver, Colorado.

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Heat vs. Nuggets Odds

Thursday, June 1
8:30 p.m. ET
Heat Odds
-110 / -110
Nuggets Odds
-110 / -110
Odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.

Nuggets -8.5 (to-9)

The Heat are 3-0 straight up as an underdog in Game 1s this postseason, but they won’t sneak up on the Nuggets, who have been straight chillin for more than a week while the Heat played a grueling seven-game series against the Celtics. In fact, we could be in for a massive correction because the Heat are up against a Nuggets squad that posted an NBA-best 14-7-1 (67%) ATS mark (18-4 straight-up) with a rest advantage, per Not to mention, the Nuggets also posted the league’s second-best ATS mark at home (30-18-1; 62.5%).

The Nuggets won’t play boneheaded offense like the Celtics, who chucked 3s despite facing a Heat defense that finished the regular season second-worst in 2-point field goal percentage allowed (56.9%) – just two-tenths of a point better than the expansion-level 22-win Spurs.

The Nuggets offense not only finished second in 2-point field-goal percentage (57.5%), but they also took them at the ninth-highest clip (63.9%) – all while finishing as the fourth-ranked team in 3-point shooting percentage (37.9%).

The Nuggets wrecked the Heat for 59/50/81 shooting splits in the two regular-season matchups, only failing to blow out Miami due to sloppy play that has come to epitomize midseason basketball (allowing offensive rebounds despite a size advantage, silly turnovers) but hasn’t been an issue for them in the postseason.

The Nuggets match up well on the other side of the ball as well, which could curtain Miami’s outlier 3-point shooting. The Nuggets allowed opponents to hit just 34.4% of their 3s in the regular season, tied for second-lowest, and they’ve actually improved upon that slightly in the postseason (34.2%).

And then there’s this nugget (no pun intended), courtesy of Zach Kram of The Ringer:

Over the past three seasons, Jimmy Butler has scored only 11.4 points per 100 plays when defended by Aaron Gordon, according to Second Spectrum. He’s at 17.9 points or better against every other defender he’s faced (minimum 100 matchups).

Finally – and with the disclaimer that we’re always dealing in small sample sizes when talking about NBA Finals trends – it’s still worth noting that there is perhaps no Finals trend more pronounced than home favorites smashing in Game 1.

Per our Action Labs data, Game 1 home favorites are 16-2 SU (88.9%) and 15-3 (83.3%) ATS since 2005, covering by 5.3 points per game on average. I’ve been avoiding betting against the Heat all postseason, but I think this is the spot to do so.

Caleb Martin Under 6.5 Rebounds +114 (to -150)

Caleb Martin put up Dennis Rodman numbers on the glass with 25 rebounds – 21 defensive – over his past two games, but even with an uptick in playing time, he’s in for some serious regression, and it’s a good bet to begin in Game 1. Martin is averaging 0.17 rebounds per minute this season, which means he would need to play over 40 minutes again just to project for a median of seven rebounds.

But Denver is no Boston, so Martin shouldn’t be expected to turn in a median performance on the glass. Whereas the Celtics shot just 42.5% over that two-game stretch, the Nuggets are shooting 49.0% this postseason, and they shot a blistering 58.6% from the field in two games against the Heat in the regular season.

In addition to seeing a decrease in rebounding opportunities, Martin will also have to deal with Denver’s size and length: Nikola Jokic is 6-foot-11, Michael Porter Jr. is 6-foot-10, and Aaron Gordon is 6-foot-8. Those players will be tougher to grab rebounds over than the starting Celtics frontline that is collectively a half-foot shorter (Al Horford is 6-foot-10, Jayson Tatum is 6-foot-8, and Jaylen Brown is 6-foot-6). Denver’s 38.3 rebounds allowed per game this postseason are the fewest allowed in the entire playoff field.

Aaron Gordon Over 2.5 Assists -130 (to -150)

Gordon will be called upon to initiate offense for the Nuggets, but the Heat make the ball move around, which should allow Gordon to collect at least three dimes, especially with the success the Nuggets have had shooting against the Heat (59/50/81 splits in two regular-season meetings).

Gordon has recorded three or more assists in all four of his games against the Heat as a Nugget, as well as six of his past seven postseason games.

Gabe Vincent Under 2.5 Rebounds -210 (to -300)

Gabe Vincent will luck into three-plus rebounds every once in a while, but those occurrences are more rare than the line implies. Vincent has finished with fewer than three boards in 13 of 17 postseason games, or 76.4%.

As I mentioned with Martin, the Nuggets don’t project to give Miami many rebounding opportunities. Per Hashtag Basketball, Denver is allowing an NBA-low 4.6 rebounds per game to opposing point guards over the past month.

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