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All times Eastern, and all odds via Caesars Sportsbook
🔥 The Hot Ticket
- Key Trend: The Nuggets are 30-18-1 ATS at home this season, and have won the first game of their first three playoff series by an average of 17.7 points.
- The Pick: Nuggets -9 (-110)
I like the Nuggets at home tonight for a number of reasons. The first is that the Nuggets have been so much better at home all season. In the postseason, the Nuggets have played eight games at Ball Arena and won all eight. They've gone 5-3 ATS in those games and have won by an average of 12.25 points.
Now, it must be pointed out that they were only favored by more than nine points in one of those games, and it was as 10-point favorites against Minnesota in Game 5. But while plenty of people will argue "rest vs. rust," it's a dumb argument. The Nuggets have been able to get right while the Heat were in a seven-game battle against the Celtics. I'd rather be rested and slightly rusty than worn the hell out.
Finally, while there's a bit too much made of it, the altitude matters. It's part of the reason the Nuggets are so good at home (the biggest part is the whole being a great team thing). So for Miami to play a seven-game series against Boston and then have to play at altitude is a lot to ask. Particularly for a team that's been banged up and relying on guys who might exemplify "Heat Culture," but aren't superstars.
While I'm comfortable taking Denver -9 on the whole game, I'll also be taking Denver in the second half, provided it's not a blowout in the first half. I do not think this will be an easy or short series, and I give Miami a real shot of taking Denver down. However, there's a good chance tonight's opener is a blowout. If it is, take Miami and the points in Game 2.
Here's what SportsLine is saying about the game: The SportsLine Projection Model has Denver covering, but not by enough to make it a play. However, our SportsLine experts have shared plenty of bets they like for tonight's NBA Finals opener.
💰 More NBA Finals picks
The Pick: Nikola Jokic Over 37.5 Points & Assists (-117) -- If you're going to bet on sports, it's always crucial to keep a nerd around because nerds are there to tell you that, despite what you may think, individual matchups aren't predictive when it comes to player performance. Just because Nikola Jokic has always played well against Bam Adebayo does not mean he will always play well against Bam Adebayo.
You consider that information and either listen to it or decide it might be true in the long run, but you don't care right now. I'm going with the latter approach!
In 70 minutes against Miami this season, Jokic has scored 46 points with 20 assists while shooting 69% from the floor. While he has not surpassed the 37.5-point total we're betting tonight, he never played more than 36 minutes in either of those games. In the postseason, he's averaging 39 minutes per game (he played 34 per in the regular season) and has played at least 37 minutes in 13 of Denver's 15 playoff games. More minutes will lead to more production. I don't need a nerd to tell me that.
The Pick: Jimmy Butler Under 27.5 Points (-117) -- This prop has been working well for me since the second round of the playoffs, and I'm not changing it now. After Jimmy exploded in the Milwaukee series, his points prop jumped to 29.5 points, and it has slowly made its way down to 27.5 tonight for a simple reason: he's rarely gone over it.
Butler has gone over his points prop in three of 12 Miami games since the second round began. He's only scored 28 points in four of those 12 games. Butler may be the alpha of the Heat roster, but he doesn't need to dominate the shots, and his shot hasn't been falling much lately, anyway. He's shooting 42.4% from the floor since the first game of the second round and has been reliant on getting to the free-throw line to score. He does not get to the free-throw line as often on the road as at home.