Nuggets vs. Heat Game 3 Prediction | NBA Finals Odds, Picks

Nuggets vs. Heat Game 3 Prediction | NBA Finals Odds, Picks article feature image

Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Jimmy Butler #22 of the Miami Heat and Jamal Murray #27 of the Denver Nuggets.

  • After Miami shockingly pulled out Game 2 on the road, Game 3 represents a chance for one team to take a 2-1 lead in the NBA Finals.
  • The Nuggets will need to pick up the pace a bit in order to bring back some shooting variance that could tilt in their favor.
  • Joe Dellera has three best bets for this matchup below, and also offers up a full preview.

Nuggets vs. Heat Odds

Nuggets Odds-2.5
Heat Odds+2.5
Time8:30 p.m. ET
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.

The Miami Heat evened the series up after giving the Denver Nuggets their first home loss during the postseason. Now we transition to Game 3 in Miami and see which of these teams can take a 2-1 series lead.

Will Miami continue to shoot the lights out, or can Denver find itself defensively and cool off the Heat? Let's break down how to bet Game 3 of the NBA Finals in the Nuggets vs Heat preview.

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Denver Nuggets

The Nuggets lost their first home game of the postseason, but it wasn't due to their offense. Through two games, they have an Offensive Rating of 117.8 and an eFG% of 57.5%, per NBA Advanced Stats.

This is hidden a bit due to the average scoring output being just 106 points per game thanks to the absolutely glacial pace of 89.75.

Denver hasn't been able to get out in transition effectively and push the pace; there has been a significant drop off in pace from their 96.33 mark in the previous rounds of the playoffs.

While Denver is excellent in the half-court, the issue is that it allows Miami to set up its defense and keep its best players on the floor for more minutes.

However, the bigger issue is from a math perspective; Miami wants Denver to play slower because it allows Miami to hang tight with shooting variance, since there are fewer possessions.

Additionally, a slower pace means Denver's better offense has fewer opportunities to rack up bigger leads. Miami is able to do this by shirking offensive boards and getting back on defense so it can set up its various looks, including its patented zone defense.

Denver's inability to get out in transition and push the pace has allowed Miami to keep things close. In fact, Miami has outscored Denver on a per-play basis in the half-court.

This isn't due to Nikola Jokic, though. Jokic has been dynamic as a scorer throughout this series. He's averaging 34 points per game on an absurd 63.8% eFG%.

Many people will point to this and say that Miami "made him a scorer," especially after his 41-point outing in Game 2. Coach Erik Spoelstra rebuffed that concept and said it may appear that way "to the untrained eye."

Jokic scored 1.37 points per shot attempt in Game 2. You don't game plan to allow someone to score at that type of clip. Jokic takes over the game when he needs to, and it's because his teammates aren't knocking down shots.

Denver knows it can default to the Jamal Murray/Jokic pick-and-rolls, and it's been dynamic, with Murray averaging five assists per game to Jokic alone this series (continue to bet Murray's assists prop at 6.5 and 10+).

In Game 2, Jokic's teammates shot 46% on shots from his passes, but just 16% from 3-point range.

Overall, Jokic was responsible for a shooting percentage of 53% in Game 2 — between his own shots and his passes. The rest of the team shot 50% without his influence.

This entire narrative of "making Jokic a scorer" dramatically changes if a few more shots go down, and Jokic recorded a 41-point and seven-assist performance on that level of efficiency. Spoelstra knows that, and we should too.

Denver definitely has some issues and had that fortunate run in the second quarter without Jokic, but overall, it didn't lose Game 2 because of its offense.

Miami Heat

If Denver didn't lose due to its offense, what did Miami do offensively that wrecked worlds?

Well, the Heat shot 49% from 3-point range — which is tremendous — but they also took 45% of their shots from deep.

They're jacking up 3s at an absurd rate and to me, this is their scheme. They're leaning even more into the 3-point variance by slowing down the pace.

I spoke with my colleague Brandon Anderson about this, and we had the same comparison; they're playing like that outmatched college team in the NCAA tournament that leans on a zone defense to bog things down, while shooting a deluge of 3-point shots to maximize their potential offensive output.

The shots fell in Game 2, but they simply didn't in Game 1.

However, it's elementary to say this team's success comes down to shot variance; there's simply no nuance in that take.

Miami had excellent ball movement in Game 2 and assisted on 74% of its made baskets, which is an incredible rate. The Heat were able to put Denver's defense into rotation, and while Denver's defense is about average, the lack of execution on the defensive side of the ball contributed to the wide-open looks Miami was able to generate.

Missed assignments are a Denver issue. However, smart and effective ball movement is something Miami deserves credit for.

That level of discipline contributed to the Game 2 win.

Miami has made calculated decisions with its rotations, and the Kevin Love adjustment was significant. Love is a bigger body and a solid rebounder. His rebounding takes away a bit from Bam Adebayo's chances, so I lean Bam's under 2.5 1Q rebounds if Love remains in the starting lineup.

But the more important thing is that Love is a body to put on Aaron Gordon. This has taken Jimmy Butler off of Gordon, putting him on Murray.

This is the matchup Miami wants due to Butler's size and strength advantage. The Heat are treating Murray like the head of the beast. They know they struggle to stop Jokic for a variety of different reasons, but by slowing down Murray a bit, the Nuggets' offense continues to slow in pace.

This makes it harder to catch Miami in bad matchups, as it can set its defense exactly as it would prefer.

Nuggets-Heat Pick

I'm not quite sure that Denver makes adjustments in Game 3 other than "playing better." However, one adjustment that would bust up Miami's zone a bit would be to have Jokic bring the ball up the floor.

Miami is relatively smaller than Denver and by letting Jokic bring the ball up and run the offense from up high, this would throw the zone off and force Miami to scramble, which may open up more cutting lanes for Denver's slashers.

Ultimately, Denver is the better team. While there was some variance for both teams on the offensive front in Game 2, Denver was one 3 from sending a game to overtime that it felt it had already lost.

I don't think everything is fine in Denver, but I also think it feels like it has less to change stylistically and more to change in its execution.

On the other hand, Miami needs to replicate its performance from Game 2, as it accomplished what it wanted and squeezed out a victory.

I do question whether Denver will try to run Miami off the 3-point line and force the Heat to finish at the rim — thus limiting some of the shooting variance. But it seems as if the conscious effort has been to limit Miami's paint scoring, which the Nuggets have done effectively.

I bet Denver's moneyline at the open (-115), and I expect it to win this game. However, the line has moved to (-2.5 and -140), and there's less value there.

Denver has won two of its three Game 3s and it's been excellent in the 1Q (Jokic plays the entire quarter).

I like Denver on the 1Q moneyline and obviously on the full game, but if it's available, the bet I prefer from a value perspective is Denver 1Q/Full Game ML (+160 bet365).

Pick:Denver 1Q | Denver 1Q/Full Game | Jamal Murray Over 6.5 Assists

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