Is Nikola Jokic playing today? Nikola Jokic will lead the Nuggets at home against the Heat in Game 1 of Denver’s first ever NBA Finals. The game is expected to tip-off at 08:30 PM ET, Thursday, June 1st, 2023.
Given that the Nuggets have been dominant at home this season and in the playoffs, it’s no surprise they are a 9 point favorite, with many expecting Denver to get to an early 1-0 series lead.
The 2023 NBA Finals will feature a showdown between two exceptional individual performers: Jokic of the Denver Nuggets and Jimmy Butler of the Miami Heat. Jokic, despite losing the MVP award this season, has been dominant in the playoffs with a triple-double average.
Meanwhile, Butler has shown his relentless determination throughout his career and has elevated his game in this postseason run. The Nuggets, the top seed from the Western Conference, will face the Heat, who surprisingly secured the eighth seed from the Eastern Conference.
Both teams have been underestimated and overlooked, making this a highly competitive matchup. Jokic and Butler will be crucial for their teams’ success in their quest for the championship. Denver is making its first-ever appearance in the NBA Finals, while Miami returns after their loss in 2020.
Butler’s previous playoff performance and the Heat’s championship experience add an intriguing dynamic to the series. Ultimately, this showdown between Jokic and Butler promises to be a thrilling battle as they lead their teams on the quest for the title.
ODDS AND PREDICTIONS
The concerns about Denver’s defense are leading to a decision to take all the points on offer with Miami in Game 1. The time away from competitive play can often affect communication and defensive awareness, and considering Denver’s potential offensive rust, it is unlikely Denver will be able to cover the egregious spread.
In the two regular season meetings, Denver shot an impressive 58 percent and 59 percent but did not win either game by more than five points. Although the series may be advantageous for Denver’s offense, with their league-best 38 percent shooting from three as a team, the spread for Game 1 seems too high considering the unknown factor of how the Nuggets will react to the extended rest.
Miami has demonstrated an improved three-point shooting performance in the playoffs compared to the regular season. Their advantage in rhythm coming into Game 1 could potentially be the deciding factor in keeping the game close against Denver, a team known for its leaky defense.
While the intensity level in the Finals is significantly different from regular season non-conference games, Denver’s record of 15-15 against teams from the Eastern Conference suggests that they have struggled to cover the point spreads, despite a solid 19-11 win-loss record in those games. Given the size of the point spread in this particular game, it is reasonable to agree with the sentiment that Miami will stay within the number.
Spread: Nuggets -9
Moneyline: Heat +295, Celtics -370
Pick: Celtics -7
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