NBA Finals betting: Game 1 player props
The Heat played four hotly-contested games against the Celtics since the last time we saw the Nuggets take the court and overwhelm the Lakers in a sweep. For the Eastern Conference champs, it's been a week of turned ankles, hitting the floor repeatedly, and flying from Miami to Boston to Miami to Boston to Denver.
By now, you may know that we're quite certain the favorites - the Western Conference's 1-seed that boasts a back-to-back NBA MVP - will prevail relatively quickly. But there's more to the NBA Finals than the side. There are also props. We'll apply what we believe for this series to the derivative betting markets.
Nikola Jokic over 27.5 points (-115)
One fact and one guess:
Even dating back to his pre-MVP seasons, Nikola Jokic has averaged over 22 points in contests against the Heat with Bam Adebayo, which is higher than his career average of 20 points per game. That matchup isn't something to worry about, especially considering the players Jokic has battled in the paint in these playoffs. Over the last three postseasons, he's taken more of a scoring role, averaging 30 points per contest.
It's not unreasonable to think Erik Spoelstra and Miami would gladly allow the Serbian to score 30 points if it means not having to face a barrage of open 3-pointers while getting picked apart by Jokic's ability to facilitate for teammates. The Heat survived the Celtics thanks to a heavy dose of zone defense, but that likely won't work against the Nuggets.
Maybe Miami will adjust by double-teaming Jokic when he has the ball inside. However, it might not have time on a short turnaround to fine-tune the rotations necessary to put that plan into action. Instead, Miami's defenders could stay at home on shooters and take their chances on a big scoring game from the Joker.
Caleb Martin under 16.5 points (-125)
There's a case to be made that the Heat should suffer from tired legs at elevation in Game 1. In the four contests against the Celtics in which Caleb Martin recorded over 16.5 points, the key was his outside shooting. Martin shot nearly 50% from beyond the arc in the series, and his role as an X-factor couldn't have been lost on Mike Malone and the Nuggets.
But the length of Aaron Gordon or 6-foot-10 Michael Porter - each charged with keeping a hand in Martin's face - will make it far tougher for the dangerous small-ball stretch-four to score than when Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown guarded him.
Aaron Gordon over 1.5 steals + blocks (+160)
With the expectation of a tougher game for the Heat offense and their small-ball lineup dragging Gordon away from the basket, there should be more opportunity for the Nuggets power forward to get a steal or two. Also, the adjustment to his length may allow for a quicker closeout than Miami's shooters expect. Plus, if Adebayo forces shots inside with Jokic as a primary defender, Gordon could come over for a help-side block. With numerous avenues to stuffing the stat sheet, taking the over on the combined steals and blocks markets is a decent underdog play on Gordon.
Matt Russell is the lead betting analyst for theScore. If there's a bad beat to be had, Matt will find it. Find him on Twitter @mrussauthentic.
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