NBA Finals betting: More of the same in Game 2?
Game 1 of the NBA Finals went largely according to script. The Nuggets showed some evidence of rust, but that was far outweighed by what looked like tired legs from the Heat, whose 33% 3-point shooting was cosmetically improved with some late makes long after the game was already out of hand.
The point spread for Game 1 toggled between -8.5 and -9, while the total closed at its low point of 218.5. With the series opener going way under with a total of 197 points, a significant adjustment was made as oddsmakers opened Game 2 with a total of 213.5. The spread has held firm, which is interesting based on a few factors that seem to lead to game-to-game changes throughout the playoffs.
Sunday, 8 p.m. ET
In estimating the line before Game 1, we discussed how our projections should build in a full point for the massive rest advantage that the Nuggets had over the Heat. That should be diminished now that a game has been played, there have been two off days between games, and the Heat are acclimating themselves to the elevation.
Secondly, we've repeatedly seen this postseason a half-point adjustment in the direction of the team that lost the first game of the series, and perhaps that's been reflected in a firmer 8.5-point spread across the board.
Lastly, going way back to the first games of the Heat's series with the Bucks, we estimated a downgrade for Miami when second-leading scorer Tyler Herro broke his hand. Having been practicing for a few weeks, Herro may return on Sunday night, and if he does, shouldn't that count for something positive toward Miami? Between that and a leveling of the rest advantage, Nuggets -8.5 might be too high.
As for the total, while the Heat shot poorly, the Nuggets also shot an uncharacteristic 8-for-27 from deep. With what appears to be a critical length mismatch, Denver was able to get whatever it wanted inside, but just because the Nuggets can score efficiently in the paint doesn't mean they don't want to hit 3-pointers at their usual rate. Even going 12-for-27 would have added 12 points to their total, and if Miami can pick up its offensive efficiency, we might see the current total surpassed.
Nikola Jokic over 27.5 points (-115)
We tried this in Game 1 and missed it by the hook. On a micro level, a late missed layup kept Jokic under this total, but from a macro standpoint, it was Miami opting to let him get everyone else involved early with five assists before he even took a shot. How did that work out for the Heat?
I'll bet that Jokic takes more than 12 shots in Game 2, either by his own volition or by acquiescing to the Heat's game plan. And if he does, he'll cruise past this total in a game that should be higher scoring overall.
Gabe Vincent over 12.5 points (-120)
We won easily fading Caleb Martin, perhaps so much so that his points total prop isn't currently being offered. His lack of success wasn't a matter of him turning into a pumpkin-like Cinderella's carriage at midnight but rather a function of the Nuggets' length at the wing. We'll expect him to struggle again (why would Michael Malone change successful defensive assignments after a win?). But Vincent showed no fear in picking up the slack, as he shot 50% from the field. He'll get more than his fair share of shots and should score more than 12.5 points.
Aaron Gordon under 13.5 points (-115)
We thought Gordon might overwhelm the Heat with his defense, but he didn't manage a second steal/block. Instead, he was the early weapon on offense, getting six of the Nuggets' nine first-quarter buckets at the rim by backing down under-sized defenders Vincent and Max Strus. But the Heat turned off the valve to that mismatch, and Gordon had one bucket for four points in the final 40 minutes of Game 1. Look for Miami to have a better plan right from the start and Gordon to go back to being a tertiary offensive option at best.
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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