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Heat vs Nuggets: 2023 NBA Finals Odds & Betting Preview

A smooth sail from the Nuggets and a Game 7 victory by the Heat have the two squads lined up against one another in the NBA Finals. Read our NBA Finals preview below for a full breakdown and our best bet.

Last Updated: Jun 1, 2023 11:21 AM ET Read Time: 4 min

It may not be the NBA Finals we wanted, but it’s the one we’re going to get. Luckily, we can temper any disappointment with a healthy dose of NBA betting action.

The Miami Heat have stunned the hoops world as the No. 8 seed and will face the best in the West, the Denver Nuggets, in the 2023 NBA Finals. With the championship series tipping off Thursday in Denver, the NBA Championship odds have the Nuggets between -360 and -480 to hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy, while the Heat can be had as underdogs between +270 and +330. Our Covers experts are unanimously siding with the Nuggets in their NBA Finals predictions.

Denver is sizable 8.5-point home favorite for Game 1 on June 1 according to NBA odds, but it has been sitting dormant since sweeping the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference finals back on May 22 — a 10-day hiatus from the pressures of the postseason.

The Heat, on the other hand, have just a couple of days to catch their breath after a nail-biting Eastern Conference finals win over the Boston Celtics in which Miami nearly blew a 3-0 series before punching its ticket to the Finals.

I break down the strengths and weaknesses of both the Heat and Nuggets and give my NBA picks and predictions for the upcoming Finals. Check out my Heat vs. Nuggets Game 1 picks and predictions for even more insights ahead of tip-off tonight.

2022-23 NBA Championship odds

This odds widget represents the best odds available for each team from regulated sportsbooks. Analysis below may not match live odds.

Miami Heat breakdown (No. 8 seed, 44-38)


Momentum means something in the playoffs and the Miami Heat are oozing Razor Ramon levels of machismo. The Heat couldn’t give two shits about their seeding or the fact they almost suffered the biggest faceplant in NBA history — And that makes them dangerous. 

Miami has been a barnstormer in the playoffs, not only spitting in the face of oddsmakers but also any home-court edge opponents think they have. The Heat are 9-5 SU and 11-3 ATS as underdogs and have gone 6-4 SU and 7-3 ATS on the road, where they boast a +1.5 net rating in the tournament.

On top of peaking at the perfect time, Miami isn’t a one-dimensional team and can win games in a number of ways. The Heat have an active defense that loves to switch and is coming off an Eastern Finals set in which they limited a Celtics offense ranked No. 2 in the regular season to just 105.3 points over those seven games.

And then we have Jimmy Butler. Every championship team needs a superstar and Butler is built for the grind of playoff basketball, both physically and mentally. Butler is averaging 28.5 points on 48% shooting in the postseason all the while guarding the other team’s best players. 

All that said, the biggest strength for Miami is head coach Erik Spoelstra. He’s one of the best coaches of the modern NBA, with plenty of finals experience having won two titles with the “Big 3” back in 2012 and 2013, and has been to the finals five times with the last coming in the 2020 Bubble. He’s a master of scheming and in-game adjustments, giving the Heat the edge on the sideline and game-to-game.


Bam Adebayo is a good defender but he’s in over his head against Nikola Jokic. To be fair, most guys are.

In his two meetings with Miami this season, Jokic did Joker things. He hung 27 points, 12 rebounds, and eight assists on the Heat back in February, and scored 19 points with 12 dimes and 12 boards in late December — shooting a collective 20-for-29 in those games.

Adebayo was tethered to Jokic in those matchups and the switch-happy Heat approach didn’t swap defenders when the Denver Nuggets big man was screening the ball. Bam is quick and strong, but undersized against Jokic.

Denver could go heavy post-up with Jokic in an attempt to draw Adebayo into foul trouble, and then the Heat’s lack of quality size will really get exposed. Miami doesn’t have much beef to throw at the two-time MVP center, looking to Kevin Love and reserve center Cody Zeller to help slow down Jokic around the rim. 

Another thing working against the Heat in this series is wear and tear. Momentum is great but Miami could risk running out of gas after allowing the East Finals to extend to seven games. Not only is the travel more taxing than making trips up the coast to Boston and New York, but Miami goes from sea level series to the thin air at altitude in Denver. Game 1 will be a true test of stamina for Butler & Co. 

X-Factor: 3-point shooting

It’s not just one guy who can be the difference maker for Miami in this series, but a collective effort to take and make shots from beyond the arc in the NBA Finals.

The Heat’s outside shooting was bad in the regular season, ranking 27th in 3-point percentage. Those shots have been falling at a postseason-best 39% heading into the NBA Finals. That luck from long range started to sputter in the ECF, with Miami making just 36.5% of those looks in the three straight losses to Boston before knocking down 14 of 28 triples in Game 7.

Guys like Gabe Vincent, Caleb Martin, Max Strus, and Duncan Robinson have all come up big from distance in the tournament and there’s an outside shot the Heat could get back top marksman Tyler Herro at some point in the finals.

If the well goes dry from 3-point range against a Denver defense that has limited foes to less than 10 triples per game in the playoffs, the Heat are in trouble. If Miami can stay hot from deep, this series could be a lot more fun.

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Denver Nuggets breakdown (No. 1 seed, 53-29)


We already noted just how dominant Nikola Jokic could be against an undersized and undermanned Heat frontcourt. But let’s pile on.

He’s playing at an all-time level for NBA postseasons, averaging 29.9 points, 13.3 rebounds, and 10.3 assists in the tournament. That includes an insane 27.8, 14.5, and 11.8 stat line in the series sweep of the Lakers — a defense that ranked amongst the best in the league in the second half of the schedule.

Jokic’s ability to score from wherever as well as his prowess as a passer really throws a wrench in Spoelstra’s defensive schemes. Miami doesn’t want to switch on screens because he can just back down smaller foes nor do they want to bring the double team, as he’ll find the open man. Even throwing zone at the 6-foot-11 center will backfire with the way he can pack the paint and create space for the Nuggets’ shooters. 

As a team, Denver does a lot right and enters the finals with a respectable defensive rating of 111.7 for the postseason. The Nuggets may not have the same defensive grit as the Heat, but they don’t give away any cheap buckets either.

They’ve limited turnovers to a postseason-low 11.4 per game which has been translated into just 13.5 points against off those errors. Denver does a great job cleaning the glass, with a playoff-high 53.4% rebound rate, and has allowed less than eight offensive rebounds an outing while checking rivals to a mere 10.2 second-chance points in the playoffs.

The Nuggets also play a methodical pace on offense, ranking 24th in tempo during the regular season and dragging that pace rating to 96.33 in the playoffs. That limits the number of possessions for opposing offenses and makes every trip down the floor a must-score situation. 

Add in the energy-sapping air inside Ball Arena, where the team owns +11.6 net rating and an unblemished 8-0 SU record this postseason (5-3 ATS), and getting the best of Denver over a seven-game set is going to be tough for any team — let along an upstart eight seed.


Michael Malone is not a bad coach but he’s no Spoelstra. He’s not a true weakness either, but this is one angle in which Denver is at a detriment. 

This is Malone’s first trip to the NBA Finals as a head coach and truth be told, he hasn’t had to do too much in the way of adjustments so far this postseason. His biggest challenge could be keeping his team engaged and in shape the past 10 days as they waited for the East side of the bracket to wrap it up.

The layoff is another knock against the Nuggs. Denver has gone from the intensity of the WCF to a week and a half of walkthroughs and forcing that “playoff” feeling instead of living it day to day. Miami, however, has been “in the shit” the past week, fueled by the crushing pressure of the playoffs and fighting for its life in a Game 7 in Boston.

That stagnation could lead to Miami coming out and punching Denver in the mouth in Game 1, especially with the way the Heat have performed in enemy territory during the tournament. While we’ve seen the Nuggets come out flat on the road, they haven’t been staggered on their own floor.

X-Factor: Michael Porter Jr.

Michael Porter Jr. could pose big problems for the Heat in the NBA Finals. 

He’s an up-and-down producer with a very high ceiling but he plays soft, and that won’t work against the in-your-face Heat. However, if Porter Jr. puts on his “big boy pants”, the 6-foot-11 small forward could be a matchup nightmare for a smaller Miami rotation. 

He was called upon to play the No. 4 spot against the Lakers and stretched their interior defense with his ability to make shots from outside as well as put the ball on the ground. He’ll likely draw checks from Caleb Martin or Butler, who are much smaller, or face off against Love, who is too slow to keep up.

Porter Jr. was a consistent contributor against the Lakers, averaging 15 points over the four-game sweep while doing work from inside and out. He scored 17 points in the February matchup with Miami, picking up 15 of those points off triples as he shot 5-for-14 from beyond the arc.

With Adebayo glued to Jokic’s shorts, MPJ will have massive amounts of space to make a splash. 

Heat vs Nuggets series prediction

The Nuggets are pricy favorites to win the series and Finals MVP odds hold little value unless you think Miami wins this thing. I’m going to run with some of the NBA player prop markets for the NBA Finals, looking at FanDuel’s odds on player to lead the series in 3-pointers. 

Heading into Game 1, Nuggets guard Jamal Murray is the front runner as an odds-on favorite of -145. Murray is making 3.1 triples per game in the postseason and has tallied the fifth most buckets from beyond the arc at 47 makes in 15 contests.

Behind him is our X-factor, Michael Porter Jr. at +240 to make the most 3-point shots in the NBA Finals. Porter is just behind Murray with 2.8 makes from distance per game in the playoffs and took a ton of shots from deep in the final two games versus L.A., hitting 7 of 20 from long range — and finished with 14 totals 3-pointers behind Murray’s 15 in the West finals.

He has a height advantage over his defenders and with Miami trying to pack the paint against Jokic, there’s nothing but clean air between Porter Jr. and his closest defender. 

Best bet: Most threes made in the NBA Finals — Michael Porter Jr. (+240 at FanDuel)

Heat vs Nuggets Game 1 odds

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