Game 1 is in the books, with Denver able to stop Miami’s streak of series-opening road wins. That puts Miami in the pressure position in Game 2, fearing an 0-2 deficit when the series shifts to South Florida.
My picks for Game 2 stay away from picking a winner, veering more into some props further down the board that look like great value on Sunday night.
Nuggets 3rd quarter (-2.5)
We’re getting a little cute with this one, but it makes sense given the two teams we’ll see in Game 2. The primary reason the Nuggets have a chance to not just win this series but to do so handily is due to Denver’s depth.
Miami’s stars can counteract the production of Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray. It’s the role players behind the Nuggets top two that unlocks more doors to success. In Game 1, it was Aaron Gordon thriving. In future outings, it could be Bruce Brown or Christian Braun or Michael Porter.
That depth shows itself when both teams head to their benches but also as the game drags on. Over Denver’s last 12 games, the Nuggets are winning the third quarter by an average margin of four points per game, with three third quarters with double-digit margin over their opponent.
Nikola Jokic over 1.5 made 3-pointers
Despite two recent MVP awards, Denver’s big Serbian isn’t known for his outside shooting. This prop, however, simply has too much juice to ignore.
In the postseason, Jokic is averaging 1.8 made threes per game and has had two or more triples in nine of 16 games, including one game where he played light minutes in a blowout. Denver as a team shot under 30 per cent in Game 1, so could have some shooting regression in the holster.
I like Joker’s chances to hit a few from outside.
Max Strus over 1.5 made 3-pointers
Speaking of shooting regression, no one is more in line for a change in luck than Strus. He was 0-10 from the field and 0-9 from long range in Game 1. All of his attempts were good looks within the flow of Miami’s offense and his form looked solid.
Sometimes the ball just doesn’t drop.
With a modern-style head coach like Erik Spoelstra, Strus will not be encouraged to shy away from open opportunities in Game 2. In fact, I’d nearly expect Spoelstra to draw up a play to free Strus early in the game, possibly as soon as Miami’s first possession.
I’m more than happy to take my chances on Strus finding his form in a bounce-back game.
Jimmy Butler under 7.5 rebounds
The Eastern Conference Finals MVP has only topped this prop eight times in 18 postseason games. Of those eight games with eight or more rebounds, four of them were exactly eight rebounds. This is not one that you’re afraid of Butler blowing out of the water. When he has gotten there, he’s just barely done so.
I don’t love his chance to be productive on the boards in the series. He spent chunks of Game 1 trying to defend the bigger Aaron Gordon and crucially, finding Gordon in transition after Miami’s misses. The “cross-matching” where Miami wants Butler guarding Gordon, while Denver has Gordon matched up elsewhere defensively leaves Butler in an odd position crashing the glass.
It would be counter-intuitive for that to lead to a bunch of rebounds for Butler, who will need to produce more as a scorer.