NBA Finals: Best bets, odds and predictions for Game 3 between the Miami Heat & Denver Nuggets

By Jonathan Von Tobel  (Senior NBA Analyst) 

June 7, 2023 10:41 AM


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Denver Nuggets (-2, 216.5) at Miami Heat

Game 3: Series tied 1-1

Through two games of the NBA Finals the betting storyline has been all about the total.

In Game 1 of the series we saw a tepid move to the under, and the contest came in well under the total with 197 total points scored. For Game 2 the oddsmakers adjusted the total by 4.5 points at the open, but the market pounced on the overcorrection. The result was 219 total points and an over on the total which was bet up about 2.5 points from the open.

Two games, two very different results. 

When we get two results that appear to be on the opposite ends of the spectrum it can be difficult to find what is real and what isn’t. However, diving a bit deeper we can build the case that Game 2 was the outlier performance, and that the market is getting this right in betting the total under once more.

The most obvious factor to start with is the pace of this series. The two games have seen an average of 89.75 possessions per game, with Game 2 coming in at 86 possessions for both teams. Both Denver and Miami are in the bottom half of postseason teams in pace and neither ranked higher than 24th in the category in the regular season, so the pace should not come as a surprise. Having said that, this pace is agonizing even for two slow teams, but it is not going anywhere.

The Heat are more than comfortable playing at this pace. In the two games against the Nuggets only 7.3% of their live ball rebounds have led to a transition play. For context, the lowest rate in that category in the regular season was the Rockets at 20.8%, according to Cleaning The Glass. A number that low is intentional, and it will likely continue as the series goes along.

Miami is also frequently running its zone defense, which slows down a game for any opponent. It ran the 2-3 zone mostly in the fourth quarter on Sunday, and it ground the game to a halt. Had the game been played at the pace of that quarter it would have equated to just 78 possessions, according to the NBA tracking data. Anytime that zone is played the pace will slow significantly, and we can expect to see it once again tonight.

So we can assume that the pace of this series is going nowhere, but what about the efficiency? Well, on Sunday the contest went over because of some insane offense on both ends. 

Despite a glacial pace in the fourth quarter both teams combined for 61 points because of some incredible efficiency. Miami averaged 1.8 points per possession, which is the highest offensive rating in a single quarter this season, and Denver put up 1.316 per possession. Both teams also combined to shoot 28-of-60 (46.7%) from beyond the arc. Still, the game barely went over the number.

It is safe to assume that it is unlikely either team repeats those insane efficiency marks tonight, which leads us to the total for this contest.

The betting market has driven this down in a massive way, with 214.5 the consensus total as of this morning and it makes sense. We know that the pace is going to be slow, and we can assume we do not see the efficiency we saw in the last game in this series. It would also be wise to assume Denver is going to be much better with its communication defensively.

The Nuggets allowed 10 wide-open 3-point attempts on Sunday, and many were the result of miscommunication on switches. Michael Porter Jr., Christian Braun and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope were at the center of many of those mistakes, and Michael Malone will make sure those issues do not happen again.

This article is obviously building a case to bet this game under, but since the total has already moved the question becomes if it is worth betting still. This is the absolute lowest number that can be played, but the answer would be yes if anyone reading this wanted to bet pre-flop. The smartest way to go would be in-game after a flurry of scoring pushes the number up, but for the article we will use the market number.

Bet: UNDER 214.5

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