Heading back to Miami, the NBA Finals sits knotted at one game apiece. In game two, the Miami Heat again showed that they cannot be counted out of any series regardless of depth concerns or clear talent differential. With a series lead on the line, we’ll preview game three before going over why I’ll be targeting a first-half bet in this one.
If someone had been away with no internet access and asked me to recap this series, I think the simplest way to put it would be in game one; the Nuggets showed they are the most talented and well-rounded. In game two, they stopped focusing on attention to detail, and just like they have all postseason, the Heat took advantage.
There is a lot more to the series on the ins and outs, but we’ve seen this all postseason, Denver overpowers a team with their stars and bench production. At the same time, Miami has a new role player step up and play above their expected level, for example, Duncan Robinson at the end of game two. Robinson’s big fourth quarter led Nuggets head coach Michael Malone to call out his team’s effort after the game.
I can’t imagine any coach is okay with their defense getting beat off the dribble by Duncan Robinson in the fourth quarter. With a minor offensive adjustment and Robinson catching fire, Miami shot 68.8% in the fourth quarter for 36 points, the most points either team scored in a quarter this series. Effort is fixable, however, and Denver has shown they can respond, but at the end of the day, the “effort” debate would not be as strong if Denver’s role players didn’t shoot as poorly as they did in game two.
Even with their horrid fourth quarter and multiple missed defensive rotations throughout the game, Denver still only lost by three, and Nikola Jokic showed no one will be able to guard him this series. I’d argue if Michael Porter Jr. and Kentavious Caldwell Pope didn’t go a combined 3-12 from the field and 1-9 from three, Denver could have matched the Miami run, just like they have all postseason.
Denver is currently listed as (-1.5) point favorites in the first half tonight, and I’ll be backing them for my play in this one. Only two teams this postseason have a positive NET rating on the road in the first half, one of which was knocked out in the first round, and the other is the Nuggets at (2.1). Denver has also outperformed Miami in all aspects in the first half of both games this series.
Denver is shooting 54.8% from the field and 44.4% from deep in the first half, while Miami is shooting 40.7% and 35.3%. Defensively, the Nuggets' defensive efficiency rating goes from 102.2 in the first half to 126.1 in the second half. I expect Denver to come out tonight emphasizing defense after Malone’s comments.
Not only do I expect a change in defensive intensity, but I’m expecting one on offense as well. The Nuggets fell to 0-3 when Jokic scores 40 or more points in a game, according to ESPN Stats and Information, so as much as I expect him to be involved, I think they’ll try to get Michael Porter Jr going a bit more. If the Nuggets can let Jokic facilitate more to offset the Heat’s defensive style, then I like the Denver to go into halftime with the lead.
Denver Nuggets 1H (-1.5)