Denver made a statement in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, storming to a 17-point halftime lead and cruising to a victory in which they covered the spread and the total swayed to the under by a wide margin.
Nikola Jokic never looked bothered in his 40 minutes on the floor, pouring in 27 points on just 12 field goal attempts, dishing out 14 assists, and securing ten rebounds to nab his ninth triple-double of the 2023 playoffs. Point guard Jamal Murray put on a show of his own with 26 points and ten assists toward the Nuggets’ winning effort.
Miami looked uncomfortable and unsure of how to deal with Jokic defensively and struggled equally on the offensive end. They outshot Denver from long-range but had just two free throw attempts as a team, 18 fewer than the Nuggets saw.
Bam Adebayo led the Heat with 26 points and 13 rebounds in one of his best career playoff games. Jimmy Butler managed just 13 points and went without a free throw attempt for only the second time in the last four postseasons as a member of the Heat.
Our Game 1 plays fell one Bruce Brown point away from a 2-1 result, with the forward scoring 10 points on six shots in 21 minutes to finish shy of his total.
As for the Heat players we wagered on, Bam Adebayo outperformed our expectations for his rebounding numbers, but Caleb Martin played as we anticipated and cooled off compared to his recent scoring output.
The Nuggets look to take a two-game lead at home Sunday evening, and we’ve got a best bet card of player props ready to roll. Good luck!
Murray has been at his best during this extended Nuggets’ playoff run, averaging 27.6 points per game on 48% shooting to go along with 6.4 assists and 5.5 rebounds. Over his last five games against the Lakers and Heat, he’s posted an average stat line of 42 minutes and 31.2 points on 52% shooting, including 39% from three-point range.
In short, he’s been precisely who Jokic needs him to be to elevate Denver to a title favorite. Conversely, we’ve seen how well Miami coach Erik Spoelstra has adjusted to opponents like Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jayson Tatum in the playoffs.
We expect Murray to look slightly more human in Game 2 and will play his under after what we believe is a less-than-sustainable pace for the Kentucky product.
We went to this well in Game 1 and got burned but are not letting that deter us from making the same play on Sunday night.
Adebayo posted his third straight game with double-digit rebounds Thursday, something he hasn’t accomplished in the playoffs since 2020. He’s never extended that streak to four games in 60 postseason appearances.
Jokic’s rebounding total was below average until he closed strong in Game 1, and we expect him to give Bam more trouble underneath the basket in a high-stakes rematch on Sunday.
Simply put, if Butler doesn’t hit this number, Miami will be down 0-2 in the series.
Of course, they may still be in that two-game hole if he does surpass this scoring total, but their chances of avoiding that deficit increase exponentially if Butler is getting into the lane, attacking the basket, and hitting free throws.
Miami’s unquestioned leader has attempted 8.6 free throws per game this postseason despite that goose egg in Game 1, and we expect him to be battering the Nuggets' defense after two days' rest in an attempt to wrestle home-court away from Denver.
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