ESPN's fantasy basketball and basketball betting tips cheat sheet is your pregame destination for basketball betting predictions and our best intel and data, featuring ESPN's proprietary Basketball Power Index (BPI) to help you make smart fantasy and wagering decisions. NBA game odds for Game 1 are provided by Caesars Sportsbook.
What you need to know for Heat-Nuggets Game 1
The path the title is set. The road to glory starts in Denver this evening, with the high-powered Nuggets' offense positioning them as sizable opening favorites. The Miami Heat have been on an upset marathon for well over a month, so it's possible that no favorite is truly safe.
When it comes to DFS decisions, fading Nikola Jokic is a bold pursuit. I'd rather build around "Joker" in lineups than pivot too far, especially with Denver offering several intriguing complementary options such as Michael Porter Jr.s zone-busting shooting and Aaron Gordon's connective two-way game.
For Miami, Bam Adebayo is primed for a big line in the wake of Anthony Davis feasting on the glass and finding room in the paint in the last series. This isn't to say that worked so well for the Lakers, but rather this matchup appears inviting for Adebayo to do his own triple-double chase. Let our panel of experts prepare you for this anticipated matchup.
-- Jim McCormick
Breaking down Heat-Nuggets Game 1
Records (Against the Spread)
Heat: 44-38 (30-49-3)
Nuggets: 53-29 (44-37-1)
Line: Nuggets (-9) Total: 219.0
Money Line: Nuggets (-400), Heat (+310)
Best bet: Nuggets to Game 1 and the series (-250). Miami has impressively defied the odds so far this postseason, but I do think their run ends in the Finals. Denver is polished and poised, which suggests they should not unravel like Milwaukee and Boston did. Plus, the Nuggets have the ultimate cheat code in Nikola Jokic, who prevents Denver from scoring lulls, which have been so critical to Miami's playoff success. The series price of -380 is a bit hefty but with the implied odds of 79%, I still think there is value there. Additionally, I would take Denver -1.5 games (-180). I like them to win the series in six games or fewer. My favorite play is the Nuggets to win Game 1 and the series at -250. I believe Denver has a distinct advantage in the series opener, due to the home court, altitude and Miami's quick turnaround from Game 7. -- Doug Kezirian
Best bet: Nuggets -9. This is a really uncomfortable bet because I spent the entire Eastern Conference playoffs backing the Heat as an underdog and it paid off in a big way. They just beat the Celtics by 19 points in a Game 7 on the road when they were 7.5-point underdogs. This team is as resilient as they come and should not be underestimated. However, I think the jump to facing Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets is going to be a shock to the system, with the team well rested after sweeping the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals. Denver's shooting and home court advantage (they haven't lost a game at home this postseason) will be the difference in this game and throughout the series. -- Tyler Fulghum
Best bet: Nikola Jokic to get a triple double (-104). Jokic has already posted an NBA record eight triple-doubles in this postseason. He's just an absolutely unstoppable offensive force. Anthony Davis couldn't handle him and Bam Adebayo (likely) won't be able to handle him. Denver is 4-0 against Miami over the past two seasons and in those games Jokic has averaged 23.8 PPG, 13.5 RPG, 9.3 APG and has two triple-doubles. -- Fulghum
Best bet: Heat +9. The Nuggets are undefeated at Ball Arena this season and the betting market continues to lack confidence in the Heat. However, Miami has an impressive 12-4 record against the spread over their past 16 games and the Nuggets only beat the Heat by an average of 4.5 points during the regular season. I expect a closely contested game from start to finish. Miami has momentum and Denver might be rusty after a long layoff. -- Eric Moody
Best bet: Caleb Martin over 16.5 points. If the Heat are going to hang with the Nuggets they're going to need Martin to keep his foot on the gas. It's also possible he feels a bit snubbed after Jimmy Butler won the Larry Bird MVP Award. Martin averaged 19.3 PPG against the Celtics in the ECF and might continue to produce until Tyler Herro returns. -- Steve Alexander
Best bet: Michael Porter Jr. over 15.5 points. The Heat should focus most of their attention on stopping Jokic and Jamal Murray in Game 1, which should mean guys like MPJ and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope get a lot of open looks and opportunities. Porter Jr. scored between 14 and 16 points in his four games against the Lakers, and while that consistency is impressive, I'll be looking for more on Thursday night. He also took a promising 16 shots in Game 4 against L.A. but hit just five of them, so he'll need to keep the volume, while knocking down a lot more of those shots. -- Alexander