The 2023 NBA Finals are set as the Miami Heat and Denver Nuggets will square off in the best-of-sevem series starting on Thursday in the Mile High City, with the Nuggets looking for their first-ever title and the Heat eyeing their fourth. Denver is the -410 series favorite at BetMGM and star center Nikola Jokic is the -350 favorite to win Finals MVP, but the sportsbook is most exposed on teammate Jamal Murray at +1200.
Jokic was named the winner of the Earvin Magic Johnson Award, otherwise known as the Western Conference Finals MVP award, after Jokic broke Wilt Chamberlain's all-time record with his eighth triple-double of this postseason: 30 points, 14 rebounds, 13 assists in Game 4 to finish a sweep of the Los Angeles Lakers.
Jokic registered a triple-double in three of the four games in the series, averaging 27.8 points, 14.5 rebounds and 11.8 assists. Jokic is the second player to average a triple-double in multiple playoff series in a single postseason, joining Wilt Chamberlain in 1967. The Heat don't have nearly the size the Lakers did, so Jokic could continue putting up triple-doubles.
To no surprise, Jokic leads all players in early tickets (23.3%) and handle (38.5%) for Final MVP. Usually the award is won by stars. The last "non-star" to win Finals MVP was the Warriors' Andre Iguodala in 2015. A center hasn't won it since 2005 when Tim Duncan took home the honors, and he really was a power forward. The last true NBA Finals MVP center was Shaquille O'Neal in 2002.
Murray (+1200) is averaging a playoff career-high 27.7 points this postseason and averaged 32.5 points in the Lakers series. He shot 52.7% from the field and only gave away seven turnovers over four games.
Jimmy Butler is +350 to win NBA Finals MVP for Miami, and all other players on both sides other than Jokic and Murray are at +5000 or longer. Butler and Caleb Martin on Monday became the second duo in Heat franchise history to each score 25 points in a series-clinching conference finals win. They joined LeBron James & Chris Bosh, who did so in 2014 vs. the Pacers.
The Heat made their first NBA Finals appearance in 2006. They have been back six times since then, including this season. Those seven NBA Finals appearances are the most in the NBA during that span. Miami is just the third team in the past 35 seasons to reach the NBA Finals despite being underdogs in each of their first three playoff series, joining the 1995 Rockets and 1999 Knicks.
Denver was 2-0 vs. Miami this season and has won six straight in the series. Jokic averaged 23.0 points, 12.0 rebounds and 10.0 assists per game against the Heat, and Murray had just 14 points the lone game he played. Butler had 20.5 points, 8.5 rebounds and 8.0 rebounds in his lone game.
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