Heat vs. Nuggets prediction and odds for Game 1 of the NBA Finals

Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, and Aaron Gordon of the Denver Nuggets. Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, and Aaron Gordon of the Denver Nuggets. Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports /
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Something is going to have to give in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, as there are two trends from this postseason on the line between the Denver Nuggets and Miami Heat on Thursday night.

Denver is a perfect 8-0 at home in the playoffs, while the Heat have won Game 1 on the road in all three of their series this postseason. Which trend holds up in Game 1?

Well, based on the odds, it seems like Denver is going to come away with the win. The Nuggets are 8.5-point favorites in this game, and for the series they are favored at -400 odds, making them the second-largest favorite in NBA Finals history.

The Heat have covered the spread in 13 of their 18 playoff games so far, but the team has a trend working against it in Game 1. Teams that are fresh off of a Game 7 are 33-53 straight up in Game 1 of the following series.

Thursday’s matchup should be a good litmus test for how this series will go, and Nuggets fans will get the first look at their team ever playing in an NBA Finals.

Can two-time MVP Nikola Jokic lead the team to a win – and cover – in Game 1?

Here’s the latest odds, as well as my best bet for this contest:

Heat vs. Nuggets odds, spread and total

Heat vs. Nuggets prediction and pick

I am bullish on the Nuggets winning Game 1, but 8.5 points is a ton of points for an NBA Finals game.

There is a rest trend that benefits Denver in this game, but it’s rare that the teams with this much rest were set as near double-digit favorites in Game 1.

Miami deserves a ton of respect for what it’s done this postseason, so I’m going to take advantage of a different market rather than fading the Heat for the entire game.

All season long, Denver has been elite in the first quarter, and that has continued into the playoffs.

Denver ranks No. 2 among playoff teams in first quarter net rating (11.8) behind only the Los Angeles Clippers, who played just five games. The Nuggets are also first in the NBA in first quarter offensive rating this postseason.

Adjusting to the altitude in Denver is tough, and Miami may get punched in the face a little to open this game. The Nuggets finished the regular season fourth in net rating and third in offensive rating in the first quarter at home.

The Heat have scored the ball at a high rate this postseason, but I question how the team handles Nikola Jokic, who has dominated Bam Adebayo over the past few seasons.

Denver’s first unit has dominated in the playoffs, with all five players shooting over 35.0 percent from beyond the arc. I’ll ride with the Nuggets to get off to a strong start in Game 1.

Game odds refresh periodically and are subject to change.