The Denver Nuggets take a 9-1 streak in their last 10 games to Miami where they will try to defeat the Heat on their own home court, kicking off a 4 game road trip for the Mile High squad. The Heat are on a 3 game losing streak that has dropped them to 8th in the Eastern Conference seeding, but they’re still only 2.5 games behind the New York Knicks for 4th and home court in the first round, so every game is crucial for them if they want to give themselves the best chance to go deep again in this year’s playoffs. The Nuggets have tied the Thunder record-wise atop the Western Conference, but thanks to the Thunder owning the head-to-head tiebreaker, the Nuggets will need to finish ahead of OKC in the standings to steal home court away throughout the Western Conference playoffs. It’s a big game for both squads and a rematch of last year’s Finals always makes for an exciting contest. Bring on South Beach!

The Essentials

Who: Denver Nuggets (45-20) at Miami Heat (35-29)

When: 5:30 PM MST

Where: Now it’s called Kaseya Center, apparently, in beautiful Miami FL

How to watch/listen: Denver Stiffs does not condone piracy….unless it’s the romanticized 18th century type. Altitude TV where available (Altitude TV is on DirecTV, DirecTV Stream and Fubo TV). NBA League pass for those not in the Nuggets market. Altitude Radio 92.5. Say you’re a club merchandizer there to make sure everybody gets to South Beach safely after the game.

Rival Blog: Hot Hot Hoops

Injury Report: Vlatko Cancar – out (knee), Braxton Key – out (G-League), Jalen Pickett – out (G-League), Hunter Tyson – out (G-League); Jimmy Butler – probable (illness but not the Serbian Flu), Tyler Herro – out (foot), Kevin Love – out (heel), Josh Richardson – out (shoulder)


The Three Things

The thing to watch for: Bam vs Joker

Bam is a tremendous player, and with guys out or questionable he’s going to need to pick up the slack for the Heat. Unfortunately in their last 3 games, all losses, he hasn’t been an offensive focus. He’s had fewer than his season-average of 15 shots a game in every one, and all the losses were by 7 or fewer points. Miami doesn’t have a bunch of volume scorers to rely on, and with an iffy Jimmy Butler for this game they really need Bam to come through on both offense and defensce against Nikola Jokic. However, Nikola knows what this matchup is like. He took the measure of Bam in the Finals and he’s seen the wrinkles that coach Erik Spoelstra has to throw at him. Bam both has to find a way to shoot and score more often than he has been while also slowing the speeding locomotive that Jokic has been since the All Star Break. The odds look to be with Denver on this one.

The thing to remember: Slow and steady wins the race

The Heat play slow, with the third-slowest pace in the league. The Nuggets aren’t speed demons either, just one spot higher than Miami. In the playoffs the Heat slowed the pace to an absolute crawl in an attempt to capitalize on any variance they could create – an extended run makes more of a difference if possessions are kept to a minimum. But the Nuggets are the masters of the efficient play, and that played out over the course of the Finals just like I expect it to play out tonight. If there are fewer possessions and the game stays tight, that’s playing right into Denver’s wheelhouse.

The thing to bet: Under 213.5 (-110)

Road games are not great for betting statlines, so let’s assume that the Heat are going to stick with their strategy of slowing the game to the speed of molasses. The only game in the entire series that went over this game’s line of 213.5 was Game 2, the one Miami won in Denver (also known as “the Finals game I decided to go to”). If possessions are a premium and Denver treats them that way, the score should stay low. It doesn’t net much, but it’s hard to bet the over at the start of a road trip against a team that really, desperately wants a win and would love it to be against Denver. Assume the strategy and take the under, because Denver will willingly play slow and enjoy it.

And then maybe go clubbing in South Beach again after.

SNO again this week!

Three weeks, three stiffs night out. You gotta love it! We are headed back down to Number Thirty-Eight this Wednesday (TONIGHT) for Stiffs Night Out. At this point you guys know the drill. Giveaways, $15 pitchers, great food, live postgame podcast and all the best Nuggets fans getting together to watch Denver in a Finals rematch against the Miami Heat. It’s an early game which works out well for us on a Wednesday so get off work, head over to Number Thirty-Eight for a 5:30 tip, watch the postgame pod and be home by your bedtime. Hope to see everyone there!