NBABet's 5 Best Bets for Game 1 of the NBA Finals

Check out Action Network's best bets today, featuring five NBA Finals picks for Heat vs. Nuggets Game 1

It’s NBA Finals time (cue Adele’s “Hometown Glory”) and we have a truly remarkable matchup.

On one side, we get the Denver Nuggets, arguably the most dynamic offensive team we’ve seen in this era aside from the Golden State Warriors. On the other side, we have the Miami Heat, who have defied the odds at every turn — sometimes with defense, other times with offense, but always with hustle and grit — to become the second No. 8 seed ever in the NBA Finals.

These two teams haven’t played each other since February and so much has changed on both sides entering Game 1 of the Finals. So how will the series opener play out?

Action Network’s NBA analysts have five best bets today, including three writers aligned on the spread for Game 1. You can check out their expert picks for Heat vs Nuggets below.

NBA Odds & Best Bets

Miami Heat vs. Denver Nuggets

Pick Nuggets -8.5
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Tipoff 8:30 p.m. ET

Chris Baker: People have been making the case for the Heat catching +8.5 given that the Nuggets are coming off of 10 days of rest, but I think the far stronger case lies with the Nuggets laying single digits. Despite what the Heat’s team leaders say, there has to be a collective deep breath of relief to just be in the finals after surviving that series against the Celtics.

Additionally, Jimmy Butler tweaked his ankle during that Celtics Game 7 and he certainly didn’t look like himself throughout much of that game. If Butler isn’t 100%, this Heat offense is in trouble, as I don’t believe they can defeat the Nuggets with Caleb Martin being their lead offensive engine.

Nuggets in Game 1 has been a slam-dunk spot all postseason long, as it takes defenses time to adjust to the uniqueness of their offense. I can’t think of a greater leap in difficulty than going from defending Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum to having to figure out how to defend Nikola Jokic with just one big in your lineup.

The Celtics never post up and never played through their center, which is much of what the Nuggets do when Jokic is in the game. The Heat just spent the last seven games seamlessly switching every screen, as the Celtics had no ball handlers or bigs who could truly punish switches. They are the polar opposite of the Nuggets, who have Michael Porter Jr. (6-foot-10), Aaron Gordon (6-foot-8) and Nikola Jokic (6-foot-11). All of these guys have the strength or talent to get their shot over smaller defenders.

Porter should have an outstanding series against the Heat, who don’t use many players in their main rotation taller than 6-foot-7 besides Adebayo, who should be busy defending Jokic. Expect MPJ to get plenty of shots off, as no one on this Heat team will be able to contest his high-release jump shot. Miami is also forcing opponents to take 40.6% of their shots from deep, another schematic factor benefiting Porter.

Ultimately, this is a historic and unique Nuggets offense. It is a nightmare to prepare for in any situation, let alone off of a seven-game series traveling into altitude with multiple guys banged up or injured. Take the Nuggets -8.5 and play this up to -9.5.

Miami Heat vs. Denver Nuggets

Pick Nuggets -8.5
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Joe Dellera: Playing the Denver Nuggets at Ball Arena when they have a significant rest disadvantage is not going to go well for the Miami Heat.

Historically, non-first round playoff games where one team has had a week or more off and the opponent has just 1-3 days off, those teams are 17-5 against the spread. Couple this with Denver’s dominance at home during the playoffs (8-0 straight up; +13.1 Net Rating, per Cleaning the Glass), and the Nuggets are in a position to succeed.

As Chris noted, Denver’s offense is unlike anything the Heat have seen so far during the postseason. I expect the Nuggets to come out firing, having had plenty of time to rest and, more importantly, to game plan. Adjusting from the 3-point brick fest that was the Boston Celtics’ offense to the Nuggets’ balanced attack will not be easy.

I expect Denver to win and cover this number while setting the tone for the series.

Miami Heat vs. Denver Nuggets

Pick Caleb Martin over 15.5 points (-120)
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Bryan Fonseca: “The Fall Off” isn’t coming for Caleb Martin yet. (Hopefully that reference didn’t go over your head.)

Martin was inserted into the starting lineup prior to Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals. Regardless, he hasn’t played under 30 minutes since the end of the Knicks series in the Conference semifinals. He has been at 40-plus in games started and 30-35 otherwise.

Still, Martin has gone over 15.5 points in five of his last six — one a 16-point game, which will be relevant by the end of this blurb. He has exploded for 20-plus in each of his last two and had 25 in Game 2 against Boston.

The Eastern Conference finals shooting splits were ridiculous: His 19.3 points per game against the Celtics came on 60/49/88 shooting. My only slight concerns are Martin’s field goal attempts have largely been in the low-to-mid teens, peaking at 16 on two occasions, and he hasn’t gotten to the free throw line more than four times in a game — often less.

However, shots will be there against Denver, and the Heat will rely on Martin to take the pressure off Miami’s offense, especially if Aaron Gordon sees ample time on Jimmy Butler, as expected.

This points prop opened at 16.5, which had plus-odds. I’d probably still buy it if the number goes back up. If Kevin Love gets a surprise start over Martin, I’d still play his over if it drops to 14.5 points — he’s gone over that in six of his last seven.

Miami Heat vs. Denver Nuggets

Pick Nuggets -8.5
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Brandon Anderson: I love the Nuggets for the series, but the Game 1 play is as much of a situational spot as anything.

Denver has a huge home court advantage in this series. The Nuggets are unbeaten at home in the playoffs (8-0) and are 42-7 at home on the season with one of the greatest home advantages in all of North American sports.

Part of Denver’s home advantage is the elevation, which is especially difficult on opponents not used to the thinner air. That could be an especially devastating advantage against an exhausted Miami squad that’s short on bodies and coming off a long, grueling seven-game series.

We fade teams coming off Game 7. Per Raheem Palmer, teams coming off a Game 7 are an awful 33-53 SU, winning just 38% of the following Game 1s since 1988. Those same teams are 36-50 (42%) in the series. These teams are exhausted both physically and mentally, with little time to rest or recover before Game 1.

It’s not just a physical disadvantage. Miami will have precious little time to prepare for an entirely new opponent, and that could be a devastating. The Heat just spent the past month facing a Celtics offense stuck in mud chucking 3s and a terrible Knicks offense. This Denver machine is something else entirely and may be jarring to Miami’s system.

Historically in the NBA Finals, it’s been very profitable to back the home favorite in Game 1. Per Evan Abrams, Game 1 favorites since 1996 are 23-4 SU (85%) and 19-8 ATS (70%). Since 2005, they’ve been nearly untouchable at 16-2 SU (89%) and 15-3 ATS (83%).

I grabbed Nuggets -8 for multiple units at open in the app, and I’m not intimidated by -8.5 or as high as -9.5 if needed.

Miami Heat vs. Denver Nuggets

Pick H2H Points: Jokic +0.5 vs. Butler (-135)
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Jim Turvey: Jokic scoring props are going to be an angle I am looking toward. And my favorite of those Jokic scoring props in Game 1 is for him to outscore Jimmy Butler.

As noted in the BUCKETS series preview, Butler was averaging 35.5 points per game in six games this postseason before he got hurt, and he has seen his points per game total slip to 24.6 in the 11 games since. If we look at just the last five games, it’s down to 22.2.

Similar to Martin, he is also “fresh” off a combined 90 minutes in Games 6 and 7 of the Celtics series and visibly looked worn down. He’s had an extra day to rest compared to the standard on-off-on, but even still, this is a spot I am looking to fade his points prop.

Add it together, and you get DraftKings’ head-to-head player prop market. This line opened with Butler actually favored to outscore Jokic outright, but it has since moved to Jokic -130. (You can follow me on Twitter @TurveyBets, where I suggested this play at -110 before the market shifted.)

Even here, I like this number, but it also appears as if they haven’t fully shifted the juice for this matchup. Bettors can get Jokic +0.5 (-135) even though buying half a point in this market is typically worth 10-15 cents. This allows bettors to have Jokic and Jimmy tie in terms of points scored and still win the bet.