Shane McNichol makes his NBA predictions for Game 1 of the Finals between the Denver Nuggets and Miami Heat.
After one of the wildest NBA seasons in recent memory, we have landed on an NBA Finals full of characters, drama, and fascinating storylines.
Miami and Denver make for a perfect odd-couple pairing, building to a back-and-forth series with contrasting styles.
I’ll be here to offer picks for every game in the series, starting with these four picks for Game 1.
Miami Heat (+8.5)
Denver is rightfully the favourites in both the series and Game 1, yet I can’t shake the feeling that the Heat are still being undervalued. Yes, this team barely made the playoffs and nearly collapsed from a 3-0 lead in the Eastern Conference Finals, but it’s undeniable that when this Miami team has played its best over the last month, it has looked plenty capable of holding the Larry O’Brien trophy at season’s end.
I’m not quite bold enough to jump on the moneyline and predict a fourth-straight road Game 1 steal by the Heat, though I’m confident Butler and the gang can at least keep it close enough to cover this spread.
Jamal Murray over 3.5 made 3-pointers
Miami’s defence, like every defence that faces Denver, will focus on Nikola Jokic. If the two-time MVP can be kept away from the areas of the court where he facilitates as a scorer and creator, Miami has a far better chance to hang with the Western Conference champs.
That could leave Murray shouldering the load of the scoring, with his up-and-down shooting sitting as one of the deciding factors for the series.
Murray has eclipsed this prop number in eight of Denver’s 15 postseason outings, though he’s been far more likely to make shots at home. He’s made four or more threes in six out of eight postseason games in Denver, compared to just two of seven on the road.
That’s probably a combination of comfort in his home arena and opposing defences dealing with altitude fatigue. In either case, it’s good enough for me.
Caleb Martin under 2.5 made 3-pointers
This feels like a ripe opportunity to bet on some expected regression. Martin is only a 36 per cent career shooter from outside the arc but has made 44 per cent this postseason and sank 49 per cent of his three-point attempts in seven games against Boston. Martin has made at least one three in ten straight games.
That’s unsustainable, especially compared to this number.
Even shooting as hot as he ever has, Martin is only averaging 2.2 made deep balls in the playoffs, which nearly doubles his regular season mark of 1.2 per game.
Martin was incredible against Boston but should regress. In two career road games in Denver, Martin is 2-7 from long range.
Jimmy Butler under 2.5 turnovers
The Heat’s biggest star has had his less productive moments throughout the playoffs, notably Game 6 against the Celtics, yet even with the heavy burden he carries offensively, Butler hasn’t been turning the ball over much.
In 17 postseason games this season, Butler has topped 2.5 turnovers just five times and has only averaged 2.1 per game, which is slightly inflated by one five-turnover performance.
Take a look back into the regular season and you’ll see Butler was even better at handling the offence. He averaged just 1.1 turnovers after March 1 and did not exceed two turnovers in any of those 17 games.