It’s the championship matchup that everyone saw coming.
The Denver Nuggets and Miami Heat will meet in the 2023 NBA Finals after three wildly unpredictable rounds of the playoffs. The Nuggets punched their ticket to the Finals in impressive fashion, losing just three games in the playoffs thus far. The Heat repeatedly defied the odds as a No. 8 seed on their run to the Finals, despite nearly becoming the first team to lose a series after being up 3-0.
With two days before the NBA Finals tip off, Action Network analysts Matt Moore, Brandon Anderson and Joe Dellera have three bets they are making before the series starts. Check out their early Finals bets below.
NBA Finals Odds & Picks
|Pick||Nuggets -1.5 series spread (-134)|
Matt Moore: The Heat defy the odds. That’s literally who they are. But that’s a narrative, and the unlikely outcome occurring twice does not make a third time more likely. We can adjust our priors on Miami to even them, but this is still a team that went six with the Knicks and almost became the first team to blow a 3-0 lead.
But more than that, this is about the matchup. The Nuggets can be the better team and lose — Miami has proven that against the Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics. But the Heat had specific things to attack or shut down against those teams. The Nuggets’ offensive floor is so much higher because of Nikola Jokic. The one thing this Heat team lacks is bigs.
Bam Adebayo has more struggles vs. Nikola Jokic than any other opponent. The Nuggets have wings to throw at Jimmy Butler, and, I guess, Caleb Martin. They have shooting to keep up with the Heat if they run hot and a daunting home court where they are undefeated.
I respect Miami enough not to take a big swing on -2.5 or a sweep, it’s just not the kind of bettor I am, though I think there’s value there. Miami gets two on the back of Heat Culture, but not enough to survive the Reign of Joker. I like Nuggets in five, but will bet the -1.5 here at pretty decent juice.
Check out our free NBA odds page, which automatically surfaces the best line for every game.
|Picks||Nuggets -1.5 Series Spread (-134) | -2.5 Games (+145) | Nuggets 4-0 (+600)|
|Book||DraftKings | FanDuel|
Joe Dellera: Denver is by far the best team Miami will have to play in the postseason, and because the Heat could not close out the sweep, they played an extra three games with no real opportunity to rest. Now, they will head on the road to Ball Arena for Game 1, a place Denver has dominated all season.
Miami has been awesome during the postseason, with some of the grittiest efforts and the second-best Net Rating in the playoffs (+3.4). The team they are second to? The Nuggets (+9.2), per Cleaning the Glass.
Erik Spoelstra is a genius, but Michael Malone is no slouch either, so the coaching advantage Miami generally had in previous rounds is a bit mitigated. Moreover, Miami has found significant success playing zone throughout the playoffs, but that will not work against a Denver team that shreds zone.
Even from a personnel perspective, Denver has Nikola Jokic, unquestionably the best player in the series. While Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo are excellent, Denver also has Jamal Murray and the rest of the roster is stronger from top to bottom, despite incredible performances from Caleb Martin in the Conference finals.
Denver has a balanced and multifaceted attack on offense, and when you face Jokic, that is completely different than scheming against Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. We just watched Jokic average 27.8 points, 14.5 rebounds and 11.8 assists against Anthony Davis. While Adebayo is at least as good as Davis, it’s tough to see anyone stopping the two-time MVP.
I respect Spo and Butler, but Denver is a completely different animal than the Bucks with an injured Giannis, the Knicks, and the Celtics, who were so heavily reliant on 3-point shooting.
While Miami survived Game 7, it looked gassed coming into it. I can’t see Denver dropping more than two games.
At this price, I’ll take Denver to close this out in fewer than seven games at DraftKings. I also think you should take each alternate down to a sweep at FanDuel.
|Picks||Nuggets -1.5 Series (-134) | -2.5 Games (+145) | Nuggets 4-0 (+600)|
|Book||DraftKings | FanDuel|
Brandon Anderson: As far as I’m concerned, the NBA season effectively ended on Monday night. I expect the Nuggets to steamroll the Heat and win their first NBA championship.
This series reminds me a lot of the 1999 Finals. San Antonio had never made the NBA Finals, but it was a juggernaut hiding in plain sight. The Spurs were No. 1 in the West all season, tops on defense and in Net Rating, and rolled through the conference with a transcendent Hall of Fame big man. In the Finals, they lucked into an 8-seed that upset the top two seeds in the East, with the help of a star injury in Round 1 and then a super close series in the ECF.
What happened? The Spurs won their first championship with ease, needing just five games — that’s about how I expect the 2023 Finals to go.
I already bet Denver in Game 1. The Nuggets, unbeaten at home in the playoffs, get to face an exhausted Heat team coming off a Game 7. Miami won’t have much time to recover before Game 2 either, or at any point really, and the Denver elevation and home-court advantage will be huge.
Denver has an excellent chance to go up 1-0 and put Miami on its heels, something that hasn’t been done all postseason. We saw the Nuggets do that to the Lakers — Los Angeles never recovered.
Miami’s defense will have a jarring adjustment to make against a team playing actual offense, and I don’t see the Heat coming up with anywhere near enough scoring to match Denver. The Heat had only eight games in the regular season shooting over 45% on 3s — they got four of them in the Boston series. Denver’s best strength defensively is limiting opposing 3s.
I love Denver in Games 1, 2 and 5 (if necessary) at home. Win one of two in Miami, and that’s a wrap. And if the Nuggets win Game 3 to go up 3-0, the sweep looks pretty tasty.
Honestly, I’m tempted to skip the Denver -1.5 series bet entirely because I’m not positive we need it, but I trust them to win a road Game 6 if needed, and that price is about half of what I expected.
Give me the Denver escalator. It’s time for the Nuggets to win their first championship.