After a long couple of series, the NBA Finals are here, and the two teams playing in it took drastically different routes to make it here. Denver has had quite some time to prepare and rest up for this series, while Miami just recently finished their seven-game set just three days ago. We’ll preview tonight’s game one before going over why I’ll be targeting a first-half play.
The Denver Nuggets last played on May 22nd, and with their dominance this postseason, they deserved to come into tonight well-rested. Denver responded to their longest series of the playoffs by sweeping the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals, which brought their overall NET rating up to (8). Playing at home like they will be tonight, their NET rating jumps to (11.8), with a true shooting percentage of 58.9%.
Denver’s stars have been as advertised this postseason, with Jokic averaging 29.9 PPG and Murray averaging 27.7 PPG. One of the more intriguing matchups that will determine how long this series goes is Jokic against Bam Adebayo. The Heat big man struggled over the final three games of the Boston series, and in the 12 matchups these two have had in their careers, Jokic has outrebounded Adebayo in ten of them and outscored him in eight of them.
Like most of his teammates, Adebayo is likely headed into this series exhausted, as he has averaged 35:33 minutes per game this postseason, which is second behind Jimmy Butler. The last time Jimmy Butler willed a team to the NBA Finals, he looked visibly exhausted, and that picture has since become a meme, but the positive for him is that he has a new teammate in Caleb Martin, who has caught fire and can fill in scoring needs.
Miami will come into tonight with an overall NET rating of (4.6) and a NET rating on the road of (1.5). The Heat posted the best defensive efficiency rating in the conference finals at (112.2) and now face a Nuggets team that got 14.6% of their points last round in transition, which, even with their strong transition defense numbers, could be tough to stop tonight with the fatigue.
Denver is currently listed at (-5.5) for the first-half spread, and I’ll be backing them for my play in this one. The Nuggets have the best 1H NET rating this postseason and have a 1H NET rating of (14.3) at home. Those are unsurprising numbers since they have covered the opening game of all three series they have played.
The Nuggets have gone into halftime of game one with an average lead of 15.3 points entering tonight, which does not bode well for a Heat team with a 1H NET rating on the road of (-7). Not only have they struggled on the road in the first half defensively, with an efficiency rating of (118.9), but they are a worn-down team dealing with multiple injuries against a well-rested team with time to heal.
Denver ran at a pace of (102) in the first half at home last series, which was the highest out of all four teams. The Nuggets averaged 51 field goal attempts and 3.5 turnovers per game in the first half at home last round, while Miami attempted an average of 42.7 points and eight turnovers on the road. If the Nuggets control the game tonight from the tip, I think they’ll continue their impressive first-half streak in opening games.
Denver Nuggets 1H (-5.5)