Miami Heat (18-17) at Denver Nuggets (19-11)
Game Info: Friday, December 30, 2022 at 9:10 p.m. EST (Ball Arena, Denver, CO)
Betting Odds: Nuggets (-4.5) / Over/Under (223.5)
Pick: Under 223.5
The Miami Heat head to the Mile High city Friday night to take on the first place team in the West, the Denver Nuggets. Both teams enter Friday's action hot, with the Nuggets 8-2 in their last ten games and Miami 7-3 over that same span.
The Heat have been banged up a lot this year but should enter Friday's matchup pretty healthy. Jimmy Butler, Gabe Vincent, and Nikola Jovic are currently listed as probable, while Caleb Martin is currently questionable with an ankle injury. Only backup center Dewayne Dedmon has been ruled out for Miami.
The Nuggets, on the other hand, will potentially be missing three key players, with Jamal Murray, Aaron Gordon, and Bruce Brown all currently listed questionable. All three missed Wednesday's contest in Sacramento, the second half of a back-to-back.
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The Heat rank dead last in the NBA with just 108.2 points per game (PPG), while Denver is averaging 116.2 PPG, good for 6th in the league. However, on the other end of the floor, Miami has been great defensively. They surrender the fourth-fewest PPG at 108.9. The Nuggets defense has been middle of the pack in 2022, ranking 17th in that department.
The under has hit in a majority of games for both Miami (51.4%) and Denver (52.9%). While the Nuggets boast the second-best field goal percentage in basketball, they will potentially be without two of their top three scorers in Murray and Gordon. Add Brown's injury uncertainty and Denver may struggle to find some points if any combination of these three miss Friday's game.
A critical thing to keep in mind is Denver's lack of secondary scoring options. Yes, Nikola Jokic is having another MVP-caliber season, but the Nuggets have struggled to find additional consistent scoring. Besides Jokic, nobody on the team averages more than 18.3 PPG and besides hot-and-cold three point chucker Bones Hyland, none of Denver's bench players can be expected to score many points.
The Nuggets are hoping that Michael Porter, Jr. can develop into a significant scoring threat, especially in Murray's absence, though he is coming off missing the entire 2021-22 season and has been limited this year as well with a heel injury. Even with a fully healthy lineup, the Nuggets have experienced scoring droughts during Jokic's bench minutes or the rare times he has been limited offensively.
The scoring potential is there with other players, but none of them have been consistently reliable this season. Considering also that the Nuggets may be without some or all of Murray, Gordon, and Brown, the under seems like the play here.
Miami's defense is reliable, with Jimmy Butler still able to guard most of the game's best players. Their offense still leaves something to be desired, although with the Heat relatively healthy now, it's possible the scoring will increase in the coming games.
Still, multiple factors support taking the under here, specifically Miami's top defense and questionable offense, and Denver possibly missing three key players. The number of 223.5 is also higher than I'd expect, especially in a Miami Heat game, so let's take advantage of the number and play the under.