The Nuggets are in the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history and they’ve been installed as sizable favorites over the Heat, who have played on this stage before, most recently in 2020.

This is the sixth time coach Erik Spoelstra has led Miami to the Finals. Bringing a No. 8 seed this far is no small feat — the 1999 Knicks are the only other team to do so and they ended up losing in five games. Denver winning in five games is the most likely outcome, according to the betting odds.

The Nuggets were the No. 1 seed in the West in the regular season and rolled through the playoffs, losing a combined three games to the Timberwolves and Suns before they swept the Lakers in the conference finals. The Heat’s run started in the play-in tournament and began in earnest with a shocking first-round upset of the title-favorite Bucks. The Knicks were their next victim and then they sent the Celtics home in seven in the East Finals, exacting revenge after their loss to Boston a year ago.

This matchup, which begins Thursday at 8:30 p.m. ET on ABC, pits two of the best postseason performers — Nikola Jokić and Jimmy Butler — against one another.

Below you’ll find four betting picks and a key question for Game 1 of the NBA Finals.

David Butler II/USA Today sports

Jimmy Butler Shines on Biggest Stage: Bet Butler Over 34.5 Points + Rebounds

Butler excelled in Game 7 of the ECF after faltering in his previous two outings. He went 5-21 from the field in Game 6 and was extremely passive in Game 5, attempting only 10 shots, his fewest in the postseason. But Butler came alive with the season on the line at TD Garden to score 28 points and grab seven rebounds, his second consecutive showing with more than 34.5 points and boards and his fifth of the series. He’s averaging 28.5 points and an even seven rebounds in the playoffs and he grabbed six and 10 boards, respectively, in two regular-season meetings against the Nuggets, though his scoring was down in those games. Butler’s first Finals appearance in 2020 was the stuff of legend — he averaged 26.2 points, 8.3 rebounds and 9.3 assists and famously exploded for 40 point, 11 rebounds and 13 assists, one of three triple doubles in the series. Count on a similar showing against Denver with the odds on the over juiced to -120.

Bam Adebayo’s Offensive Struggles Continue: Bet Adebayo Under 16.5 Points

Adebayo cracked 20 points per game for the first time in his career this season. In the postseason, though, he’s down to 16.8 points and is shooting below 50% from the field. The Celtics series was his worst on this current run as his scoring was down to 14.9 points and he scored 16 points or fewer in the final five games. Adebayo has gone under his scoring prop bet in five straight games, though he did hit the over in his five previous outings. Given the energy he will have to expend defending Jokić on the other end and the possibility he gets into foul trouble, it’s best to bank on another subpar scoring game from Miami’s big man with the odds at -120.

Nikola Jokić Takes Over: Bet Jokic to Record a Triple Double

Jokić has recorded a triple double more often than not in the playoffs. So capitalize on this run while he’s still available at +100 odds to do so. His playoff average is 29.9 points, 13.3 rebounds and 10.3 assists — Jokić ranks fifth in the postseason in scoring, second in rebounds and first in assists. He also averaged a triple double against the Heat in the regular season: 23/12/10. Jokić set the tone early last series against Los Angeles with 34 points, 21 rebounds and 14 assists in Game 1 and he could get out to a similar strong start in his first-ever Finals game.

Michael Porter Jr. Helps Control the Glass: Bet Porter Over 7.5 Rebounds

Porter has been extremely active in the rebounding game in the playoffs and he upped his average from 5.5 to eight even. He corralled 10 rebounds in three of four games in the West Finals and has four other outings with double-digit boards in the postseason. With Porter helping out Jokić, the Nuggets (+5.8) have the second-best rebounding differential in the playoffs whereas the Heat have one of the worst (-2.5). He didn’t dominate in that department in the regular season against Miami with six rebounds in each outing, but he’s shown his ability and increased willingness to crash the glass over the last several weeks. Plus, there’s marginally better odds available on the over (-108) than the under (-118).

Can the Heat Extend Their Game 1 Win Streak? Or Will the Nuggets Stay Perfect at Home?

Something has to give in the series opener. Miami won Game 1 against Milwaukee (+9), New York (+4) and Boston (+8.5) while Denver is not only undefeated in Game 1s but has yet to lose at home in the playoffs. The Nuggets are 8–0 at Ball Arena and have won four of those games by 10 or more points. The Heat on the road are 6–4 straight up in the playoffs and 7–3 against the spread so far and they are 8.5-point underdogs in the series opener. That position has been profitable for Miami backers in the postseason, with the points and on the moneyline, but Denver has also handled its business as a heavy favorite.

NBA Playoffs Betting Record: 29–28

If you or someone you know has a gambling problem and wants help, call the National Council for Problem Gambling 1-800-522-4700. The Arena Media Brands, LLC and its partners may receive compensation for links to products and services on this website.