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Game 2: Nuggets lead series 1-0
It is rare that a team can play as poorly as Denver did in Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Thursday and still win a game comfortably, but that is exactly what happened for the Nuggets.
Many will point to Miami’s struggles from beyond the arc in the loss - namely, Max Strus - and the lack of free throws as evidence that the Heat can put forth a much better effort in a potential win. However, there are many factors that the Nuggets can improve in as well, and that should be a scary thought for a team that won by double-digits in the first game.
To be clear, the Heat did themselves no favors with their ugly shooting.
As a team they went 5-of-16 on wide-open 3-point attempts against the Nuggets, and that comes days after a series concluded in which they shot the highest mark on wide-open 3-pointers we’ve seen in 10 years. Strus is a good shooter who is unlikely to repeat an 0-of-9 shooting night as well. But, the team still outscored Denver by 10 points from the 3-point line and lost by 11 points, and that is a problem.
Do not forget though, the Nuggets are a skilled shooting team in their own right. They led the postseason in 3-point percentage (39.8%) before this series began, and only shot 8-of-27 from beyond the arc on Thursday night. Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. combined to go 4-of-18 from deep (22.2%), a feat which is unlikely to occur again tonight.
Denver also did itself no favors by shooting just 30.0% (3-of-10) on open 3-point attempts (Defender 4-6 feet away) and 44.0% on all open looks. The Nuggets missed numerous open looks generated against the Heat’s zone defense in the fourth quarter, and if those shots go down we can mark up this regression as a wash between these two teams when it comes to affecting the outcome of the game.
That being said, the regression to the mean for both teams is why we have seen this total move the way it has.
As of this morning this total is up 1.5 points from the open to 216 consensus. Still, that is a number that is 2.5 points off of the closing number on Thursday night. If the shooting regression to the mean hits for both teams then we can expect a higher scoring affair tonight. Especially if Miami decides to pick up the pace.
In Game 1 just 9.4% of the Heat’s live ball rebounds led to a transition play, and as a result they averaged just 0.667 points per play. That is an abysmal offensive rating in transition off live rebounds, especially against a team which struggles to defend in transition. Remember, the Nuggets ranked 28th in transition defense off live rebounds in the regular season (126.6), and the Suns did their best to exploit that in the Western Conference semifinals. Miami is not the quickest team, but with two days in Denver we can expect a better conditioned team to try to pick up the pace tonight.
As of this morning there is a lone 215.5 to pick off at BetMGM, but the rest of the country is higher. More pace from the Heat should lead to more possessions than the 91 we saw for both teams on Thursday. That, combined with the shooting regression for both teams, should push this game over the total. Those who have not played the number yet can still get over 216 for minimal value, as this was a number I expected to be 217.
There is also the Tyler Herro factor looming over this game. Should Herro be upgraded tonight his shotmaking raises the floor for Miami’s offense while lowering the floor for its defense. He is the perfect addition to the mix for over bettors here.
Bet: OVER 216