Nikola Jokic will Lead the Denver Nuggets to Game 1 Victory Over the Miami Heat

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: May 29, 2023 08:00 PM
Nikola Jokic will Lead the Denver Nuggets to Game 1 Victory Over the Miami Heat

The 2023 NBA Finals are officially here. And, well, the participants aren't teams anyone really saw coming. Sure, the Denver Nuggets enter as heavy favorites. But many picked them to lose in Round 2. The Miami Heat, meanwhile, make history as an eight-seed sniffing the NBA Finals. Which team is going to win? We're here to figure it out.

First, though, here's everything you need to know about the opening festivities for the 2023 NBA Finals:

  • What: Nuggets vs. Heat Game 1
  • Date: Thursday, June 1
  • Time: 8:30 p.m. EST
  • Where: Ball Arena in Denver, Colorado
  • Series Score: 0-0

The general basketball world is all aflutter about this matchup. The Nuggets have dominated, perhaps unexpectedly, for most of the 2023 NBA playoffs. Their odds to win the NBA Finals, in fact, have now led all teams for a couple of weeks. Denver may be a surprise overall, but the secret's out. And yet, the Heat have defied expectations at every turn. Miami entered each of their first three playoff series as underdogs. They still managed to win them. Something special is going on with the Heat. We can't simply dismiss it.

With all of that said, the latest 2023 NBA playoff betting odds are stacked heavily against Miami:

To WinBetOnlineBovadaBetUS
Denver Nuggets+310+325+329
Miami Heat-390-400-402

First and foremost, please remember to double-check these NBA online betting odds until you actually submit your wager. Our Denver Nuggets vs. Miami Heat betting odds are accurate as of Monday, May 30. Adjustments will be made to these NBA Finals betting lines prior to the opening tip on Thursday, June 1, at 8:30 p.m. EST.

Granted, failing any surprise injury news, these Nuggets vs. Heat Game 1 betting odds should hold relatively steady. It makes sense that Denver is a heavy favorite. Not only are they playing at home, where they have thrived all postseason, but they're far more rested. The Nuggets haven't played since May 23, which gives them a full eight days off. The Heat, however, just wrapped up a seven-game set with the Boston Celtics on May 29. It'll take a minor miracle for them to be playing at full energy stores in Game 1. Then again, minor miracles have been their specialty all playoffs. Can they pull off another one here?

The Denver Nuggets Have Earned Their Status as Heavy 2023 NBA Finals Favorites

Some might see the Nuggets' long layoff following the Western Conference Finals as a bad thing. "Will they still be in game shape come Thursday night?" This isn't an unfair question. But it's also not like they've been off for months. Teams come out of the All-Star break on fire all the time. Denver may not be any different.

The Nuggets may still be a little rusty, if only because their sabbatical didn't allow them to extensively game plan for their opponent. They only found out they were playing the Heat on Monday night. That gives them only a couple of days to prepare. We ultimately can't bring ourselves to care. Denver's offense is a well-oiled machine. They rank first in points scored per possession in the postseason, thanks to their enviable blend of off-ball cutting, outlet passes, complementary shooting and, above all, the existence of two-time MVP Nikola Jokic.

Miami has no good counter for the Nuggets' megastar big man. Jokic can overpower Bam Adebayo one-on-one and has both the outside touch and handle to bust up the Heat's vaunted zone defense. In fact, no team scored more points per possession against zone defenses during the regular season than Denver's offense, according to Caitlin Cooper of Basketball, She WroteMiami may realistically find that the best tool in their defensive belt doesn't actually help them.

That might not be the end of the world over the entire series. Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra is a whiz at making adjustments. Immediately, though, the Nuggets have rest, home-court and tactical advantages. We're not crazy about them laying almost -400, but it's hard to come up with a reasonable argument against them winning.

OSB Prediction: Denver Nuggets (-390)

Denver Nuggets To beat the Miami Heat

Are the Miami Heat Getting Enough Respect Entering Game 1?

Generally speaking, the Heat are receiving their due from fans and analysts. But looking at Game 1, specifically, we're a little surprised at how many points they're getting. Here are the latest point spread betting odds for Game 1 of the NBA Finals:

  • Denver Nuggets, -9 (-110)
  • Miami Heat, +9 (-110)

Even with Miami operating on shorter rest, we're inclined they'll keep things close. Their supporting cast has actually shot quite well in most road games this postseason, and Jimmy Butler looked close to 100 percent in Game 7 against the Celtics. Plus, Miami has covered in over 51 percent of all road games in which they entered as underdogs this year.

If you have the stomach for some added risk, you can try parlaying the Heat point spread with the Nuggets moneyline. Your wager in that case would stand to pay out roughly 1.4-to-1. That is much more enticing than submitting either of these picks separately. And if you need help finding places that accept same-game parlays, we've got you covered. Our reviews of the best online sportsbooks are brimming with sites that offer just about everything.

OSB Prediction: Miami Heat, +9 (-110)

Miami Heat To cover the point spread against the Denver Nuggets

What Shape will This 2023 NBA Finals Matchup Ultimately Take?

The Nuggets are an offense-first team. The Heat, on the other hand, are a defense-first squad. That makes for an interesting stylistic clash. And this is reflected as much in the latest over/under betting odds for Game 2 of the NBA Finals:

  • Over 219.5 (-110)
  • Under 219.5 (-110)

Miami hit the "under" in each of their final four games against Boston. Could that be a sign of things to come? We're not so sure. The Nuggets have been strong defensively, but they're not elite. They will concede open threes to supporting cast members as part of their aggressive pick-and-roll coverages, and some of their bench units have hemorrhaged points.

At the same time, Denver has hit the "over" in just 43.7 percent of their home games. That share climbs only above 45 percent when they're a home favorite. On the flip side, Miami has hit the "over" in over 62 percent of their road outings when they're underdogs.

That renders this a tough decision. The Nuggets and Heat are combining to average over 227 points per game for the playoffs. And while one squad is more rested than the other, they're both getting more days off than normal.

Finally, neither team has struggled to score in Game 1s this postseason. Both Miami and Denver are averaging over 115 points in series openers this year. We'll roll the dice on the "over."

OSB Prediction: Over 219.5 (-110)

Nuggets and Heat To score over 219.5 combined points

Take a look at this list of the top online sportsbook so you can decide which one is the best fit for all of your 2023 NBA Finals betting:

Meet the author

Dan Favale

Dan Favale leverages over 12 years of sports journalism expertise in his role as New York staff writer. He provides in-depth analysis across the NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, tennis, NASCAR, college basketball, and sports betting. Dan co-hosts the popular Hardwood Knocks NBA podc...

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