Insider Insight: Simply Better
June 2, 2023
That’s just the truth about the Nuggets according to SuperBook Sports Insider Doug Ottewill
In their first-ever trip to the NBA Finals, the Denver Nuggets not only won, but they covered.
When Game 1 of the Finals tipped off, the Nuggets were a 9-point favorite. When the horn sounded, Denver had cruised to an 11-point win that didn’t feel even that close.
“I think what we saw is exactly what everyone thought we’d see,” said Doug Ottewill of milehighsports.com. “On paper – up and down the roster – the Nuggets are simply a better team. And that’s how it looked on Thursday night. There’s a reason the Nuggets started this series as a -425 favorite.”
At one point, Denver had a 24-point lead. Offensively the Nuggets shot a handy 50.6% from the field. Nikola Jokic posted his standard triple-double and Jamal Murray poured in 26 points. But those givens weren’t necessarily the story.
“Defensively the Nuggets dominated. It’s rare to hold anyone in the NBA to under 100 points, much less the Eastern Conference champs,” said Ottewill of Denver’s defensive effort, which saw Miami only score 93 points. “Aaron Gordon is bigger and stronger than most guys guarding Jimmy Butler. On the perimeter, the Nuggets were physical while chasing over high picks.
“The eye test alone says that Denver is just a much bigger, much more physical team.”
Behind Gordon, the Nuggets held Butler to just 13 points. Gordon was also vital on offense, pitching in a somewhat unexpected 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting.
“Gordon’s stat line is revealing,” Ottewill said. “When Miami tried to take something away, Denver’s answer was Gordon. It boils down to the Nuggets having at least one more scoring option at all times than Miami can truly handle.”
Sunday’s Game 2 opened at Nuggets -9 once again and has since moved to -8.5.
“I don’t necessarily love that line; Miami might be overmatched but that’s a team that doesn’t quit. They could have easily folded down 24 on Thursday, but they didn’t. They’re also certainly capable of shooting better beyond the arc,” said Ottewill. “Then again, Denver could have won Game 1 by 15 pretty easily.”
“If I’m considering how to bet this series, I’m cautiously betting on Denver to beat the spread, but taking a hard look at odds on the Nuggets sweeping, which is sitting at +360. This is their series to lose; if they play their game I don’t see Miami stealing one.”
Friday Night Trio
Three bets worth considering when the weekend kicks off
Los Angeles Angels at Houston Astros
Minute Maid Park – Houston, TX
8:10 PM ET
SuperBook Line: Houston -132
The Los Angeles Angels have two top-10 players on their roster. Maybe even top five. Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani are two of the biggest stars in baseball.
Ohtani was the 2021 American League MVP and Trout won that same award in 2014, 2016, and 2019. They are an incredible duo, but the team as a whole is pretty average.
Last year, the Angels failed to make the postseason. This year, they are just two games above .500 at 30-28, a record that puts them in fourth place in the AL West.
The Astros on the other hand are 10 games above .500 at 33-23, putting them second in the AL West. Despite losing their best pitcher in Justin Verlander in the offseason, they are still among the top teams in the American League.
Yordan Alvarez, Alex Bregman and Jeremy Pena have been leading the way. Alvarez has 14 home runs, tied for seventh in the league. They are without a doubt, the more balanced and overall better team.
However, Ohtani will be on the mound on Friday night for the Angels. L.A. may be average, but when Ohtani is pitching, they are far from it. Ohtani has a record of 5-1 with a 2.91 ERA.
Not to mention, he is a fantastic hitter who has 15 home runs and 38 RBIs. He is arguably the best player in the world at the moment and he is an opponent’s worst nightmare. There is a reason he is set to sign a near $600-million contract after this season.
The Angels are still the underdog, though. Framber Valdez is pitching for the Astros. Valdez is 5-4 with a 2.38 ERA. He is the Astros best pitcher and he is more than capable of hanging with Ohtani.
It’s a bit of a coin flip this one, but it’s hard to bet against a 5-1 record. Take Ohtani and the Angels to gain a game on their division rivals.
Richard DeMala’s pick: Los Angeles M/L (+112)
Florida Panthers at Vegas Golden Knights
T-Mobile Arena – Las Vegas, NV
8:00 PM ET (Sat)
SuperBook Line: Vegas -135
The Florida Panthers are on a historic run. They have made it to the Stanley Cup Final as a No. 8 seed and the road has not been easy.
In the first round they were matched up against the Boston Bruins, a team that set an NHL record for most wins in a single season. They beat them in seven.
The second round presented another tough challenge in the Toronto Maple Leafs. Leafs fans around the world were licking their chops at the thought of playing an eight seed instead of a one seed. Florida won in five.
Then came the Hurricanes, a team that finished with 52 wins took care of business in the first two rounds of the playoffs. The Panthers swept them.
It is unprecedented what Florida has done. They look to become just the second team in NHL history to win the cup as an 8 seed. The 2012 Kings were the only team to accomplish the feat.
But the Panthers may be facing their toughest challenge yet. The Golden Knights have defeated three teams and have yet to go to a Game 7.
They went to five with the Winnipeg Jets, six with the Edmonton Oilers and six with the Dallas Stars. They have not trailed in any series in this year’s postseason.
They are now the favorite to win the Stanley cup at -130. They are also favored to win Game 1.
Vegas is 6-3 at home in this postseason. That is a decent record, but the Panthers are 8-1 on the road in the postseason. Their only road loss came in Game 1 against Boston, meaning they are 8-0 in their last eight road playoff games. That sort of stat is hard to bet against.
Panthers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky is also hard to bet against. He is the favorite to win the Conn Smythe Trophy for most valuable player in the Stanley Cup Final. He is 11-2 in the postseason and has put the team on his back. The Panthers have been outshot by their opponents in 12 out of the 16 playoff games, yet they continue to win thanks to the heroics of Bobrovsky.
Matthew Tkachuk has also been a hero for the Panthers. He has nine goals and 12 assists in the postseason, including a four-overtime game winner against the Hurricanes. He will play a pivotal role in this series.
Both teams have their work cut out for them in this series, but the Panthers are used to that. Their 8-1 road record is hard to bet against. Take the Panthers to steal Game 1.
Norm LaChatlier’s pick: Florida M/L (+115)
Miami Heat at Denver Nuggets
Ball Arena – Denver, CO
8:00 PM ET (Sun)
SuperBook Line: Denver -8.5
The Miami Heat have defied the odds all postseason long. They defeated the No. 1 overall seed, the Milwaukee Bucks, in five games. They then went on to defeat the New York Knicks in six and then staved off the Boston Celtics in seven to advance to the NBA Finals as a No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference. It is just the second time an eight seed has ever reached the finals. The 1999 New York Knicks were able to do it, as well.
The Knicks fell short to the San Antonio Spurs in five games, but it was certainly an impressive run. That sort of narrative will likely be reimagined this year with the Miami Heat.
Through one game, this series looks like it will undoubtedly go Denver’s way. And while one game does not dictate how an entire series will go, it is difficult to see this one going in the Heat’s direction.
Not only is Denver a healthier team due to the amount of rest they had after sweeping the Los Angeles Lakers, but they seem to be a deeper, more complete team when compared to the Heat. Jimmy Butler has been able to do it all throughout this postseason, and Bam Adebayo has been his Robin the entire way. However, it takes more than two guys to beat the Denver Nuggets.
Karl Anthony-Towns and Anthony Edwards lost in five. Devin Booker and Kevin Durant gave it their all and still lost in six. And LeBron James and Anthony Davis couldn’t even get a single win.
Butler and Adebayo are terrific players, Erik Spoelstra is one of the best coaches in the league and the Heat have proved doubters wrong all postseason. But it seems as if they’ve finally met their match.
Nikola Jokic is seemingly the best player in the world, despite not winning MVP. Jamal Murray is performing at superstar level and with weapons such as Aaron Gordon, Michael Porter Jr., Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Bruce Brown, the Nuggets are absolutely loaded.
The only hopes for the Miami Heat reside in the palms of the role players. Butler and Adebayo will give everything they have, every night. But will the others step up?
In Game 1, Max Strus shot 0-for-10 from the field and scored zero points. Caleb Martin shot 1-for-7 and had only three points. Duncan Robinson shot 1-for-6 and had three points, as well. Those are the types of players that need to shine brighter if the Heat want any chance at taking control of this series.
It is also worth noting that Tyler Herro, who averaged 20.1 points per game in the regular season, could make a return in Game 2 after fracturing his hand in the first-round series against the Milwaukee Bucks. However, he will likely be limited.
If Game 2 is a reflection of Game 1, the Nuggets are likely to cover, as they won by 11 points in the series opener. Denver is looking to take home the first ever NBA title for their franchise and they are poised to do it. They are a well-rounded, healthy team with elite defenders and three-level scorers. They are yet to lose at home and have the best player in the world.
Take the Nuggets to win Game 2. But it could be close.
Jason Schlefsky’s pick: Denver M/L (-400)