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Even though I bet the Miami Heat plus the points vs. the Denver Nuggets in Game 1 of the 2023 NBA Finals, I’m not shocked Miami is down 0-1.
Initially, I picked Denver to win the title in seven games in my 2023 NBA Finals preview. But, I amended that pick to the “Heat in 7”. Also, I intended to jump in on the Heat if they lost the NBA Finals opener.
NBA Finals 2023 Odds Post-Game 1 (DraftKings Sportsbook)
- Denver Nuggets (-700)
- Miami Heat (+500)
No one should be surprised the Nuggets held serve at home Thursday. Home teams are now 18-3 straight up and 17-4 against the spread (ATS) in the last 21 NBA Finals’ Game 1s.
Granted, the Nuggets beat the Heat worse than the Game 1 final score indicates. Denver’s Game 1 lead got to 24 at one point and covered as -8.5 home favorites Thursday.
Plus, the best player in the series, and the world, Nuggets C Nikola Jokic became the 2nd player ever to notch a triple-double in their 1st-ever NBA Finals game.
Jokic picked apart the Heat’s zone defense and Denver bullied Miami on the interior. Technically, the Nuggets scored only eight more points in the paint but they attempted 18 more free throws (20-2).
The odds are literally stacked against the Heat entering Game 2 Sunday, June 4th. However, there is an outside chance the cavalry is coming for Miami Sunday.
He will return at some point in the NBA Finals. Herro broke his hand in Game 1 of the Heat’s 1st-round playoff series vs. the Milwaukee Bucks.
Some NBA talking heads, and even former players, said Miami would be better off without Herro. That narrative was always dumb but especially after seeing Heat SF Jimmy Butler score just 13 points in Game 1 of the NBA Finals.
Miami SG Tyler Herro’s possible impact
Herro averaged 20.1 points per game (PPG) during the regular season. Per CleaningTheGlass.com (CTG), Herro led the Heat in on/off net rating in the regular season at +7.7 points per 100 possessions.
Butler wasn’t nearly as aggressive as the Heat needed him to be in Game 1. Perhaps Butler is still dealing with a sprained ankle he sustained in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
But, Miami stills need more offense to keep up with this juggernaut Denver offense even if Butler is healthy. Aside from Butler, Herro is the Heat’s best shot-creator and shot-maker.
Miami attempted seven more “wide-open” 3-pointers (16-9) than Denver in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. The Heat hit just five of those 16 “wide-open” 3-point shots (31.3%).
“Wide-open” 3-pointers are when the shooter has at least six feet worth of distance between him and the nearest defender. Miami SG Max Strus was 0-for-9 from behind the arc.
Imagine if those 10 missed Strus shots went to Herro? He averaged 20.1 points per game (PPG) during the regular season on 37.8% 3-point shooting and won the 2021-22 NBA Sixth Man of the Year.
There is more value on the Heat to win the NBA Finals
This is mostly a “numbers play”. That’s too much of an overreaction to Game 1’s expected outcome. Miami was +310 to win the 2023 NBA Finals pre-series and Denver was expected to win Game 1.
But, I have faith in Miami coach Erik Spoelstra tweaking the Heat’s offense. Spo‘s 1st adjustment should be to get Butler and Miami big Bam Adebayo to attack the basket.
The Heat only shot two free throws in all of Game 1. Neither Butler nor Bam got to the charity stripe. Miami settling for 3-pointers is the wrong way to attack Denver’s defense.
The Nuggets had the 2nd-worst defensive field goal percentage vs. shots at the rim during the regular season, per CTG, and ranked 21st in paint points per game allowed.
Bam balled in Game 1, scoring a team-high 26 points on 13-of-25 shooting, and grabbed a team-high 13 rebounds. Yet Adebayo also settled for too many jump shots.
If Butler and Bam attack the basket more maybe Jokic gets into foul trouble. Jokic had a +58 net rating in Game 1 and Denver’s offense sucked when he was on the bench.
The Heat crushed the Nuggets in the battle for possessions in Game 1 and during the regular season. Miami attempted 11 more field goals than Denver in their two regular-season meetings and took 17 more shots in Game 1.
I’m confident the Heat’s 3-point shooting will improve if they keep getting wide-open looks. But, as the NBA Finals progress, the battle for possessions will become more important. Getting more possessions is how Miami will upset Denver.
BET: Heat’s adjusted NBA Finals (+500) odds
Even if Miami loses Game 2, I’ll take another small bite out of the apple with the Heat to win the NBA Finals. The Heat still have at least two home games in this series and the Nuggets had a losing record on the road during the regular season.
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