The Denver Nuggets are in an awesome spot. They are one win away from the franchise’s first NBA championship, and they can clinch it at home, where the crowd is eagerly waiting to erupt.
Catch the game tomorrow at 8:30 AM, Manila time.
HOME: Denver Nuggets (3-1)
Projected starting five:
- Jamal Murray
- Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
- Michael Porter Jr.
- Aaron Gordon
- Nikola Jokic
The Nuggets are simply firing on all cylinders. They are a well-oiled machine that’s the size of a massive truck, rampaging through the postseason with their all-around play. It’s likely about to culminate in a championship.
With smooth shooting, crisp passing, and all that good stuff, these Nuggets are averaging 107.3 points and 26.5 assists per game on 50.3% shooting, as well as a +9 net rating in the series. Nikola Jokic is posting 30.8 points, 13.5 rebounds, 8.0 assists, 1.0 steals, and 1.5 blocks in the series, and his right hand man, Jamal Murray, is backing it up with 23.3 points and 10.5 dimes. There’s not much you can do if the two stars are playing like that, especially if the secondary weapons are also taking turns as the surprise contributor. Aaron Gordon (27 in Game 4), Bruce Brown (21 in Game 4), and rookie Christian Braun (15 in Game 3) have all showcased their game well these past few contests.
Defensively, they have clamped on the Heat’s role players, and that has helped neutralize the main stars’ production and mess up their rhythm. Denver’s depth and size are too much for Miami to begin with.
AWAY: Miami Heat (1-3)
Projected starting five:
- Gabe Vincent
- Max Strus
- Jimmy Butler
- Bam Adebayo
- Kevin Love
It was a good run for the underdog Heat, but that might be it. While it is expected that it’s an uphill climb, what has occurred has been a huge outclassing, more one-sided than what many expected. All three losses have been by double digits, and almost every time, they had no answer to Denver’s counter, regardless if it’s modifying their patented zone defense, making Jokic work alone, doubling him, doubling Murray, or whichever it may be.
One key problem for the Heat their role players getting shut down. Kyle Lowry (10.5 PPG), Caleb Martin (6.8 PPG), Gabe Vincent (12.8 PPG), Max Strus (4.3 PPG), and Duncan Robinson (8.5 PPG) have all been mostly stagnant. Strus is a pitiful 5-of-31 while Martin isn’t any better at 11-of-31 (both for the series); Vincent had a good start, but due to foul troubles, he only has 4.5 PPG on a combined 3-of-16 shooting in Games 3 and 4. Robinson has flashes, but he has limited minutes because of lacklustre defense.
With all that, the 1-2 punch of Jimmy Butler (21.8 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 6.8 APG) and Bam Adebayo (22.3 PPG, 12.5 RPG, 3.8 APG) are left to do the heavy lifting. It’s frustrating to see Butler not be his classic assertive self, but aside from good Denver defense, perhaps the poor production from the supporting cast has affected his rhythm. Adebayo, meanwhile, looks gassed, hence the combined 19-of-40 shooting in the last two games.
Miami is scoring 98.3 PPG on 42.4% shooting in the series.
Handicap: The Nuggets (-8.5) close it out and cover the spread.
Over/Under: The total goes over 209.