Insider Insight: SuperBook Sports Insider Zach Bye is surprised but steadfast… on the Nuggets
June 7, 2023
When a team that enters a game as an 8.5-point favorite – at home – gets beat outright, practically nobody saw it coming.
That’s exactly what happened on Sunday night in Denver, though, as the Miami Heat topped Denver 111-108 in the Nuggets’ own barn. After Game 1, it seemed that everyone was all in on the Nuggets. Except, of course, the likes of Jimmy Butler and Erik Spoelstra.
“I definitely did not expect Miami to come into Denver as an 8.5-point underdog and hand the Nuggets their first home loss of the postseason,” says Denver sports talk show host and hoops guru Zach Bye. “But it doesn’t change my overall feeling of the series.”
You know who else hasn’t had a change of heart about this series?
The oddsmakers are still high on the Nuggets. In fact, heading into Game 3 in Miami, the Nuggets are still a 2.5-point favorite. They’re also -265 to win the series.
“I think Denver is the better team and that will reveal itself over the course of the next week and a half,” Bye says. “And I still agree with the Nuggets being a legitimate favorite to win the series. Fans will ride the game-to-game roller coaster, but the oddsmakers at SuperBook Sports won’t let Game 2 serve as a referendum of who the better team is – and the odds are reflecting that.”
But if the Nuggets are the better team – still – what happened in Game 2?
Nuggets coach Michael Malone cited “effort” as his team’s primary issue. Whether that was or wasn’t the main culprit, the Heat shot an impressive 48.6 percent from three-point range on Sunday night.
“I actually do agree with Malone’s assessment of his team’s effort,” says Bye. “That’s not to say that the Nuggets didn’t play hard, but they didn’t play with the requisite force for the NBA Finals. There is only one version of ‘being starving,’ and the Miami Heat were the hungrier team in Game 2.”
Bye also credits Spoelstra’s tactical move to make Nikola Jokic a “score-first player” rather than a facilitator. Jokic poured in 41 points but only had four assists, a rare number for the two-time MVP.
“In Game 3 I think we’ll see the same aggressive Jokic, but we’ll also see a more concerted effort from the Nuggets coaching staff to create more design off the ball, getting more touches and better looks for guys like Michael Porter Jr. and Aaron Gordon.”
There’s little doubt that Game 3 in Miami will be pivotal. The Nuggets will either re-assert themselves as the better team, or they’ll be facing adversity like they haven’t seen in the postseason yet. Miami, on the other hand, has a chance to seize control of becoming the first No. 8 seed to ever win an NBA title.
Bye believes the Nuggets will respond. Then again, the basketball world watched on Sunday night as an 8.5-point favorite fell at home.
Three bets worth considering on a Wednesday night
Denver Nuggets at Miami Heat
Kaseya Center – Miami, FL
8:30 PM ET
SuperBook Line: Denver -2.5
Surprise, surprise, surprise. The Miami Heat, the team that has been written off in every series they’ve played this season, are neck and neck with the Denver Nuggets in the NBA Finals. Thanks to an upset win in Game 2, the Heat return to south Florida with the series tied 1-1, looking to become the first No. 8 seed to ever win the NBA title.
Their 111-108 victory gave them homecourt advantage. But it didn’t buy them much respect, as the Nuggets are still a road favorite in Game 3. Apparently, the folks in the desert believe in the pro-Denver theory about Sunday night’s game.
That surprise outcome was either a wakeup call for the Nuggets, a team that was 9-0 at home entering the game and thought it could flip a switch to win at Ball Arena, or it exposed a fragile team that will face its first true adversity of the postseason, as Denver has to win on the road for the first time in the playoffs. It’s one of those two things; everyone will find out which on Wednesday night.
History favors the Nuggets. They’re 4-0 against the spread (ATS) in their last four meetings with the Heat in Miami. They’ve dominated the recent series, having won seven of the last eight games between the two franchises.
That’s because Denver has several ways they can win. The Nuggets can dominate through Nikola Jokic. They can win from the outside with Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. And they can beat you in transition with Aaron Gordon and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
The Heat can really only win when they shoot the ball well. They shot 48.6 percent from three-point range in Game 2, so it’s no surprise that they won by three. Miami hit only 33.3 percent of those shots in the opener, leading to an 11-point loss.
Being at home will help, but the Nuggets having a heightened attention to detail on defense should offset that fact. Head coach Michael Malone has spent three days harping on Denver’s need to have more focus and energy on defense.
The Nuggets are the better team. Cream ultimately rises to the top in a seven-game series. That starts tonight in Miami. Take Denver to win.
Jason Schlefsky’s pick: Denver M/L (-140)
Detroit Tigers at Philadelphia Phillies
Citizens Bank Park – Philadelphia, PA
6:05 PM ET
SuperBook Line: Philadelphia -250
Detroit isn’t a very good baseball team. The Tigers are 26-33 overall, but just 12-20 on the road.
They’ve also been bad of late. The Tigers have lost five straight games. In that stretch, they’ve been dominated, having been outscored 20-6.
On the other hand, the Phillies are playing better of late. Yes, they’re only 29-32 on the season. But they’ve won four in a row, having outscored their opponents 24-8 during that run of success.
A continuation of recent patterns is on deck for Wednesday. The pitching matchup leans that way.
Zach Wheeler has been up and down all season, posting a 4-4 record and a 4.33 ERA, but the righty has been dazzling at times. Two starts ago, he blanked the Braves in eight innings of work, surrendering just three hits.
Detroit counters with Reese Olsen. The righty has one start on the season, a 3-0 loss to the White Sox. The 23-year-old did pitch well, giving up just two hits and two runs in 5.0 innings. But he’s still an unknown. He’s a crapshoot.
Philly has dominated the head-to-head series of late, winning five in a row. That’ll continue on Wednesday. And go ahead and roll the run line.
Richard DeMala’s pick: Philadelphia -1.5 (-120)
Seattle Mariners at San Diego Padres
Petco Park – Sa Diego, CA
4:10 PM ET
SuperBook Line: San Diego -120
This is a matchup between two teams with similar records. But they appear to be heading in different directions.
The Mariners are 30-30, but they’ve lost three out of four. They got swept by the Rangers in their last series, getting outscored 30-9 in the three-game set.
The Padres are 28-33, but they’ve gone .500 in their last six. Included in that mix was a 2-2 series split against the Cubs, with their two wins coming in dominant fashion, as they posted 6-0 and 5-0 victories over Chicago.
San Diego sends Michael Wacha to the mound. The righthander is 5-2 on the season, boasting a 3.48 ERA. The Padres have lost his last two starts, but Wacha only surrendered two runs in each game. He’s given up just five totals runs in his last five starts combined.
Seattle counters with George Kirby. The righty is 5-4 on the season, with a 3.04 ERA. He pitched a gem last time out, shutting out the Yankees across eight innings. But in his two prior starts, he gave up 10 runs on 15 hits in a pair or losses.
Both teams have had their struggles this season, but the Padres are playing better of late and are in the middle of a homestead. Look for them to take care of business against the Mariners, especially after a disappointing loss on Tuesday night.
Richard DeMala’s pick: Padres M/L (-120)