The 2023 NBA Finals matchup Nuggets vs Heat is reminiscent of a sports aphorism that applies when two formidable teams meet in a decisive game or series:
“An unstoppable force meets an immovable object.”
The phrase derives from the “Irresistible Force Paradox,” a paradoxical theory that traces back to the Chinese philosophical text “Han Feizi” in the third century B.C. Typically, the paradox pertains to conflicts between two abstractly defined opposite extremes.
It functions flawlessly in this unlikely championship pairing. The Heat, who have been underdogs in 14 of their 18 playoff games, have defied the odds virtually the entire postseason, going 9-5 straight up as a ‘dog, 11-3 against the spread as a ‘dog, and 7-3 ATS as a road ‘dog. The Nuggets, the Western Conference’s top seed, are undefeated at home (8-0) and as favorites (9-1) in this postseason.
Now, “Playoff Jimmy” Butler and the irrepressible underdog force of Miami travel to Denver to take on two-time MVP Nikola Jokic and the invincible Nuggets at home. Don’t be fooled by Denver’s series odds of -400 to -500; this matchup features two of the NBA’s finest players, two of the league’s smartest and longest-tenured coaches, and two of the league’s strongest supporting casts.
Let’s discuss how delving deeper into the wagering trends, particularly for Games 1 and 2, can lead to betting success in this seven-game series between the Nuggets and Heat.
Nuggets vs Heat: Butler and Spo’s Heat is an invincible force
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His name is Playoff Jimmy, Jimmy Buckets, Himmy, or HIM are all acceptable alternatives.
The legend of Jimmy Butler is well-known at this point, as is the candidate for Clutch Player of the Year’s stoic, ice-cold approach to every game, regardless of experts’ predictions or betting lines.
The MVP of the Eastern Conference Finals, like the MVP of the Western Conference Finals, Jokic, influences the game in innumerable ways.
Similarly to Jokic, Butler has an abundance of complementing elements. Recent Caleb Martin’s scoring explosion has been a sight to witness. Gabe Vincent and Max Strus have both made timely three-pointers as well as crucial interceptions and clutch passes.
After being removed from the Miami Heat’s rotation, Duncan Robinson is once again draining three-pointers under the bright lighting.
Kyle Lowry and even Kevin Love have made numerous contributions. Four undrafted players and two players who were widely considered to be past their prime two months ago.
In addition to Butler, the common denominator is Erik Spoelstra. Since 2008-09, Miami has been among the league’s finest in terms of both regular-season and postseason success.
Spo, a former member of the film room and a protégé of Pat Riley, analyzes opposing attacks better than anyone in the NBA, and he always seems to get the most out of his players, regardless of their position.
Denver has been one of Spoelstra’s few Kryptonites throughout his tenure. Since the beginning of the 2020-21 season, the Nuggets have defeated the Heat 6-0 times.
Since 2017, the Nuggets are 12-2 against the Heat. Denver has won nine of the last ten meetings between these two teams since January 2019, both straight up and against the spread. All-out dominance.
Until the spring of 2023, Boston also witnessed success against the Heat, going 8-4 against its rivals in a given season.
Then Spo made modifications. Since December 2, Miami is 6-3 straight up and 7-2 ATS against the Celtics. Classic “Heat Culture.”
Nuggets at Home are an Intractable Object
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Despite the fact that “Nuggets Culture” doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue the same way, what Jokic, general manager Calvin Booth, and head coach Mike Malone have accomplished in Denver over the past few years is truly remarkable.
Similar to Miami, this team is built around its franchise athlete. It has snipers and elite defenders, and everyone, from the starting five to the bench players, is aware of their responsibilities.
The most frightening aspect of facing the Nuggets, aside from the fact that they have arguably the greatest player in the sport in Jokic and a lightning-quick scorer in Jamal Murray, is Denver’s incredible success at Ball Arena.
The Nuggets are now the greatest home team in the NBA since the start of the 2022-23 season, with a 42-7 record. Only the Warriors have a superior home record since the beginning of the regular season.
The Nuggets have dominated Spo and the Heat over the past few seasons, and now Malone and Jokic have had 10 days off after sweeping the Lakers.
That’s 10 days of planning, strategizing, film review, and strategy compared to only a few days of rest for Miami. Since the beginning of the regular season, when the Nuggets have had a rest advantage over their opponents, they are the greatest team in the NBA, going 18-4 SU and 14-7-1 ATS.
The fact that Denver has covered the spread in nine of its last ten games against Miami also likely contributes to the Nuggets’ series moneyline sitting between -400 and -500. We get it — that’s a fairly telling statistic — and, as we stated in our Game 1 betting preview, we’re all in on Denver winning and covering the spread. Nonetheless, a couple of wagering trends indicate that betting the Nuggets against the spread in every game at the Ball Arena may be a mistake.
Heat vs Nuggets: In-depth examination of the trends that bettors should observe prior to wagering
Despite the fact that Denver has been exceptional throughout the postseason, particularly at home and as a favorite, it is essential to note that the market has already acclimated to the Nuggets’ dominance.
Yes, Denver has won nine of its last ten games as a favorite straight up, but it is only 6-4 against the spread during that span.
Even worse, Denver’s record against the spread in its last 12 games as a seven-point favorite is only 4-8. Reduce the sample size to between late March and the present, and the cover rate drops to 2-5.
Avoid wagering on the Nuggets at -8.5 or greater.
In Game 1, bet the Nuggets to win and cover, but in Game 2, stake Miami to cover.
The next time out, Spo’s squad will score a ton of points if Denver destroys the Heat. Since the commencement of the 2022-23 season, Miami has a 28-17 straight-up record after a loss.
We’re not predicting the Heat will win Game 2, but after making adjustments following the series opener, they won’t be blown out.
Here is the most compelling argument for wagering against the spread on Miami in Game 2: Since December 2019, the Heat are 23-7 against the spread when listed as a seven-point or greater underdog. Since November ’21, they are 15-3 ATS as underdogs of +7 or greater.
As Butler would say, they’ve “got some dogs,” and they also know how to cover as hefty ‘dogs.
Consider this before betting your entire bankroll on Denver’s enormous home spreads in this series.
We’re not saying that Denver’s immovable object won’t be crowned champions; we’re just saying that Miami’s irrepressible underdog force will likely continue to defy expectations.