Game 1 of the 2023 NBA Finals will tip off from Ball Arena on Thursday, June 1 in Denver, Colorado. Two-time NBA MVP Nikola Jokic leads the top-seeded Denver Nuggets against ‘Playoff Jimmy’ and the No. 8-seed Miami Heat. Does the Joker have enough tricks in his bag to deliver the franchise’s first NBA Championship?

NBA Finals 2023: Nuggets vs Heat Game 1 Preview

At -410 odds, Denver comes into the 2023 NBA Finals as the second-biggest favorite in the past decade. Only the 2018 Golden State Warriors were bigger favorites (-1075) against the Cleveland Cavaliers. With Denver set as an overwhelming favorite, Jokic is the odds-on favorite to win the NBA Finals MVP award at -400.

On the other hand, the Heat have clawed their way back to the NBA Finals after delivering a knockout punch in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals to a resilient Boston Celtics squad. After carrying Miami through the first two rounds, Jimmy Butler got some help from an unlikely hero in the Eastern Conference Finals. Caleb Martin averaged 19.3 points while shooting 60 percent from the field and 48 percent from 3-point range to give Miami a chance to play for an NBA Championship.

Miami enters with +330 odds to win the NBA Finals with Butler set at +330 odds to win the NBA Finals MVP.

NBA Finals 2023 Game 1 Odds

The Nuggets come into Game 1 as 8.5-point favorites and will be -370 betting favorites to open the NBA Finals with a win at Ball Arena. Meanwhile, Miami will come into Denver as a +300 underdog to steal Game 1 on the road in Denver.

There’s no doubt that Denver will enter the NBA Finals as the fresher team. The Nuggets will be dealing with a 10-day layoff in Game 1 after sweeping the L.A. Lakers on May 22nd, but could the extra time come back to haunt them?

Jokic has been brilliant during the NBA Playoffs, averaging a triple-double and dominating some of the league’s best big men in the process. Through 15 games, the Joker is averaging 29.9 points, 13.3 rebounds, and 10.3 assists while shooting 47.4 percent from 3-point range.

Perhaps the unsung hero of Denver’s playoff run, Aaron Gordon has stepped up as the Nuggets’ defensive stopper during the NBA Playoffs, taking on Karl-Anthony Towns, Kevin Durant, and LeBron James in back-to-back-to-back series.

Now, Gordon will be tasked with slowing down Butler, who has seemingly single-handedly carried the Heat at times offensively.

As their primary defender, Gordon limited towns to just 37 percent shooting and Durant to just 38 percent. While James shot a blistering 60 percent from the field versus Gordon, the Nuggets forward limited him to just 27.8 points per game and blocked LeBron’s game-winning field goal attempt at the buzzer in Game 4 to complete the four-game sweep.

Who Will Step Up For Miami In Game 1 Of The NBA Finals?

For the Heat, they are the first-ever NBA Play-In Tournament team to reach the NBA Finals and the first No. 8 seed to play for an NBA title since 1999.

Butler has led Miami in scoring during its playoff run, averaging 28.5 points per game but it’s been the Heat’s bevy of undrafted role players that have been making names for themselves on the road to the Finals. Martin’s breakthrough performance during the Eastern Conference Finals was just another example of the famed ‘Heat culture’. While Martin likely deserved the Eastern Conference Finals MVP Award, Gabe Vincent, Duncan Robinson, Max Strus, and Haywood Highsmith also played quality minutes for Miami in the series.

Robinson’s emergence may have been perhaps been the most surprising. After not playing for most of the regular season and shooting s dismal 32.8 percent from 3-point range, the Heat sharpshooter found his stroke during the playoffs. Robinson has shot a blistering 44.6 percent from beyond the arc during the postseason and is fresh off of averaging 11.3 points per game off of the bench versus the Celtics.

NBA Finals 2023 Predictions

Here are our best bets for the 2023 NBA Finals:

NBA Finals MVP: Jamal Murray (+1200)

The NBA Finals will be Jamal Murray’s time to shine.

The Nuggets’ point guard has developed into one of the best clutch scorers in the NBA and has already amassed seven 30-point games during Denver’s championship run. Murray poured in 32.5 points per game in the Western Conference Finals and has shot 39.8 percent from long-range during the postseason. He will be a handful for a team that struggled to contain Marcus Smart and Derrick White on the perimeter in its last series.

At +1200, Murray has a legitimate shot to win the NBA Finals MVP Award, especially if Heat head coach Eric Spoelstra finds a way to zero in on Jokic during the NBA Finals.

NBA Championship Pick: Denver Nuggets (-410)

Talent-wise, Denver has the advantage at seemingly every position heading into Game 1. A top-five ranked offense during the regular season, the Nuggets have enough firepower from beyond the arc to contend with Miami’s 3-point attack and Jokic should be able to have his way with Bam Adebayo and the Heat frontline defense. With Miami coming off of an emotional series in the Eastern Conference Finals, it’s hard to see the Heat pulling off another upset here.

Take the Denver Nuggets to win the series at -410.