We’ve got a very rare matchup in this year’s NBA Finals, which sees a No. 1 seed taking on a No. 8 seed. After two games, this series is starting to feel similar to how a No. 8 seed in the NCAA Tournament would play a No. 1 seed.
The Great Equalizer
Three-point shooting is the great equalizer for all levels of basketball, and on any given night, a team that shoots well from outside is capable of achieving any result. Through the first two games of this series, the Miami Heat have made 11 more three-pointers than the Denver Nuggets. During the postseason, the Heat are shooting 39.2-percent from three-point range after shooting 34.4-percent from three-point range during the regular season. Miami’s opponents are shooting 32.6-percent from three-point range during the postseason. So entering Game 3, Miami has a +6.6-percent differential between their three-point shooting and their opponents’. To put that into context, when the Warriors won the title last year, Golden State had a completely even +0.0-percent three-point shooting differential. Their opponent last year, the Boston Celtics, had a +4.1-percent differential. So at +6.6-percent over a 20-game sample size, Miami’s three-point shooting (and defense) is breaking the mold. Here’s the kicker: They’ve done all of this without Tyler Herro, who averaged 20.1 points per game in the regular season. Herro appears to be nearing a return after breaking his hand in the first game of the playoffs, but he has been ruled out of this contest.
Game 3 Prediction
Bettors have pushed this total down from its opening number of 216.5 to 214.5 at most locations, and it’s pretty easy to see why. Miami shot 48.6-percent from three-point range in Game 2. The two teams combined to shoot 37-of-42 (88.1-percent) from the free throw line in Game 2. And they still needed a 61-point fourth quarter to crawl over the total on Sunday. We saw some elite shooting in that game, and the over was in doubt for 46 minutes.
So from that perspective, it’s easy to see why there has been money coming in on the under, but we’ll approach it from a different perspective. We’ve got two of the best coaches in the league in Erik Spoelstra and Mike Malone. They’ve had three full days to review film from Games 1 and 2. They’ve had time to see what has worked and what has not worked. For all of the praise we just offered for Miami’s shooting, Jimmy Butler didn’t have a very good offensive game on Sunday. Denver’s Michael Porter Jr. did not have a very good offensive game on Sunday. So while the outside shooting will likely regress a bit, there’s room for some high-level players to take another step or two on the offensive end.
Denver 112 – Miami 108 (Play the Over)