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NBA Best Bets and Bold Predictions: Heat vs. Nuggets

Denver hosts Miami on Thursday in a rematch of the 2023 NBA Finals.

The Denver Nuggets host the Miami Heat at Ball Arena on Thursday in a rematch of the 2023 NBA Finals. The Nuggets downed the Heat in five games in June to capture their first championship and they’ve defeated their Finals foe in six straight regular-season meetings.

Miami (33–25) has won its last five games — all on the road — and eight of its last 10 to move up to fifth place in the Eastern Conference. Denver (40–19), winners of four in a row, occupies third place in the West and has the second-best home record in the league (23–5).

The Heat will be short-handed in the Mile High City as Tyler Herro (knee) is questionable while Josh Richardson (shoulder), Kevin Love (heel) and Thomas Bryant (suspension) are all out. The Nuggets are at full strength and MVP favorite Nikola Jokić has been on a tear with four straight triple-doubles.

Miami Heat vs. Denver Nuggets

Spread: Heat +4.5 (-110) | Nuggets -4.5 (-118)
Moneyline: MIA (+160) | DEN (-200)
Total: 213.5 — Over (-110) | Under (-110)
Game Info: Thursday, Feb. 29 | 10 p.m. ET | TNT

Heat forward Jimmy Butler competes in the Eastern Conference finals. Nuggets center Nikola Jokic dribbles the ball during the Western Conference finals.

Best Bet: Under 213.5 (-110)

Bold Prediction: Jimmy Butler Records a Double-Double

Miami’s 106–96 win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday was its third straight by 10 or more points. Jimmy Butler led the team with 22 points and nine dimes as the Heat shot better than 50% from the floor and from the three-point line. That was Butler’s first game back from a one-game suspension he served in a 121–110 win over the Sacramento Kings on Monday. Bam Adebayo led Miami with 28 points, 10 boards and seven assists and Jaime Jaquez Jr. added 26 with Butler, Nikola Jovic, Terry Rozier and Richardson all out.

The Heat have been one of the NBA’s top-performing teams in February with an 8–2 record, the No. 2 defense and the fourth-best net rating. However, they still have one of the lowest-scoring offenses in the league (110.6 points per game) and their offensive rating is only up marginally this month.

Denver, on the other hand, is a top-10 team no matter how you slice it — offensive rating, defensive rating and net rating. Jokić is top five in rebounds (12.3) and assists (9.3) and seems to be on his way to winning a third MVP. The supporting cast around him is as solid as ever; Jamal Murray scored a game-high 32 points in Wednesday’s 117–96 blowout against the Kings and Michael Porter Jr. and Aaron Gordon have both stepped up to lead the team in scoring over the last few weeks.

The one category where the Nuggets trail some of the top teams in the NBA is three-point shooting. They make just 11.5 per game (26th) and shoot 36.7% (15th). The Heat have them beat in both metrics, making 12.4 on average on 37.5% shooting.

Both teams are bottom five in the league in pace and accordingly Miami (22–36) and Denver (22–37) have the lowest over rates in the Association. The 213.5-point total is easily the lowest over/under on Thursday’s schedule, which makes sense given these teams’ profiles and history — they combined for more than 210 points only once in the Finals last year and twice they finished with fewer than 200.

The under is also 11–4 in the last 15 games for both the Heat and Nuggets. That trend will continue Thursday with Denver on the second night of a back-to-back and Miami wrapping up a six-game road trip with their third game in four days.

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