The NBA Finals march on to a pivotal Game 3, the first game of the series to be played in South Florida with the Heat hosting.
The winner of tonight’s game would grab a major leg up with an advantage in the currently-tied NBA Finals.
Here are my four favorite bets on the board.
Denver Nuggets half-time/full-time
Adding in the halftime element to the moneyline makes for a dangerous proposition, but that’s worth the risk to get the better team at odds this strong. If you believe Denver is positioned to win Game 3, there’s real value in this market.
The Nuggets are the deeper team, with far less expected variance in their performance on a game-to-game basis. As we saw in the prior round as Miami struggled to close the door on Boston, the Heat offense can sputter for entire quarters.
Denver is the safe bet nearly every game of this series moving forward, so I like the dice roll of them nosing out to a lead by halftime as well.
Aaron Gordon first field goal
In Game 1, Gordon set the tone and took advantage of the size mismatch he boasts against the swingmen in the Miami starting lineup. He made three field goals in the game’s first three minutes, sparking an early run for Denver.
In Game 2, Gordon didn’t even attempt a shot in the game’s first three -and-a-half minutes of play and the Heat started the contest on a 10-2 run.
Nuggets coach Mike Malone knows Gordon can bully the smaller wings in the Miami lineup and could see that as a great place to kick off the game with some energy and a high-percentage look.
Max Strus over 2.5 made 3-pointers
Strus bounced back from his dreadful 0-10 shooting performance in Game 1, which included nine missed threes, with a 4-10 shooting night from downtown in Game 2.
Even with four made threes in that game, Strus is still ripe for some shooting regression. Starting the series 4-19 from outside the arc leaves him well below his season and career averages. That positive regression is even more likely to occur with the series flying across the country to Miami.
This season, Strus made 36.7 per cent of his three-point looks at home this season, compared to just 33.6 per cent on the road.
Jimmy Butler over 25.5 points
This number has crept down game after game as Butler has cooled off. Early in the playoffs, he was dominant, looking like one of the league’s best scoring threats. In Miami’s last five games, however, Butler has averaged only 20 points per game. In the 14 playoff games prior, he averaged 29.9 points per game.
I certainly don’t think Butler’s cooling off speaks to any kind of fatigue or injury and has every chance to return at a moment’s notice.
After scoring 25 or more in Miami’s first eight playoff games, Butler has managed that feat just twice in his last seven outings. Jimmy “Buckets” will have a moment in this series, with the first game back in front of the home fans certainly serving as an ample time to do so.