After decades of torture and falling short when it mattered the most, the Denver Nuggets find themselves one win away from their first NBA title. Denver was dominant all regular season and postseason, which has led them to be 48 minutes away from hoisting the Larry O’Brien Trophy in front of their home crowd. We’ll preview their matchup for game five tonight before going over my play.
The wheels have started to fall off the bus for Miami, as they lost both games in their home arena and have gotten progressively worse from beyond the arc. The magic of the Heat’s role players that helped get them to this point has started to dwindle drastically, with players like Gabe Vincent and Max Strus combining for two points in game five while going 0-7 from three.
Miami needs a spark, and it can’t be from Jimmy Butler or Bam Adebayo; there has to be a third person who steps up to make big shots. The good news for Miami is Tyler Herro is expected to play tonight, barring anything drastic during warmups. Herro has been out since he broke his hand in the Play-In Tournament but is returning when the Heat offense needs him the most.
In their three losses this series, the Heat have failed to score more than 95 points, which is the least amount of points they have scored all postseason. Tyler Herro playing at not 100% is likely not enough to fix everything, but if he can shoot, then it’s a start. Miami went from shooting 43.4% from deep last series to 36.6% this series and is fresh off a game in which they went 8-25 from deep, while Denver went 14-28.
The big difference is Miami needs to make shots from three, or else they simply cannot keep pace with Denver on offense, while the Nuggets can either shoot 50% or 28% from three and still win by almost the same score. Denver’s adjustment to having Jokic not force his shot attempts has practically given the Heat a taste of their own medicine, with the Nuggets' role players adding a layer of scoring depth the Heat defense cannot compete with or stop.
Up to this point in the series, I have given out three picks in the form of the Nuggets 1H spread. All three picks have won, so as compelling as it is to run it back, I’ll be making a play on just their second-quarter spread of (-2.5). One of the storylines this postseason has been about the Heat constantly winning fourth quarters, including even in this series, but if there is a quarter that Denver has consistently won, it’s been the second quarter.
Denver has won the second quarter in every game this series by an average of 6.75 points, and if you look even deeper, they have dominated in all aspects. The Nuggets NET rating in the second quarter of this series is (27.6), with their offensive efficiency at (136.2) and their defensive at (108.6). I think this is the quarter Denver separates themselves with their scoring depth and ability to consistently push out into transition.
The Nuggets have averaged six fast break points a game in the second quarter, which is by far the most they average in a quarter this series. Shooting-wise, the Nuggets' effective field goal percentage in the quarter is 63.4%, while Miami’s is 52.4%. Denver is in a prime position to lift the trophy tonight, but at the very least, they’ll continue dominating the second quarter.
Denver Nuggets 2nd Quarter (-2.5)