September 28, 2023

Can the Nuggets win their first NBA title?

The Denver Nuggets are on the precipice of history.

It took the Nuggets nearly 50 years to finally reach the NBA Finals, and they don’t want to miss this opportunity. The Nuggets hold a 3-1 lead over the Miami Heat going into Game 5 in Denver on Monday night.

The Nuggets seized control of the series by winning both Games 3 and 4 on the road in Miami after the Heat caused the Denver upset in Game 2. Now the Nuggets have a chance to win their first NBA title on their home floor.

And after seeing the way they played in back-to-back double-digit wins in Miami, it’s hard to imagine the Nuggets not wrapping things up Monday night.

The Nuggets have been favored in all four games of this series. For Game 5 they are preferred by 8.5 points at BetMGM.

Aside from losing 111-108 in Game 2, Denver’s average victory margin in the Finals was 13 points. The Nuggets have covered the spread in each of their series wins. Plus, all those Denver wins have gone under the total. The total for Game 5 is currently 209.5 – the lowest in the series.

Nikola Jokic, the league’s two-time MVP, led the way, but his supporting cast made a big comeback in Game 4. Jokic posted 23 points and 12 rebounds, but the Nuggets were led by Aaron Gordon.

Gordon went for 27 points, the most he has scored in a game since early February. In addition to Gordon’s scoring burst, Bruce Brown added 21 from the bench. Gordon and Brown’s big nights offset Jokic and Jamal Murray’s poor shooting nights, who went a combined 13-of-36 off the field.

The Nuggets were also able to limit Miami’s exterior shots. The Heat went just 8-of-25 from deep with Gabe Vincent and Max Strus — consistent double-digit scorers for Miami — to combine for just two points on 1-of-10 from the field and 0-of-7 from deep.

To close out the series and not go back to Miami, Denver can’t afford to give up.

Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) aims for a 3-point shot as Miami Heat center Bam Adebayo (13) defends during the second half of Game 4 of the NBA Basketball Finals, Friday, June 9, 2023, in Miami.  (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) aims for a 3-point shot as Miami Heat center Bam Adebayo (13) defends during the second half of Game 4 of the NBA Basketball Finals, Friday, June 9, 2023, in Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

8 games on MLB schedule

There is a lighter schedule in Monday night baseball with eight games to sort out.

Among the teams in action are the surprise Miami Marlins, who have won eight of their last nine with third baseman Luis Arraez leading the way. Before going 1-for-5 in Sunday’s victory over the Chicago White Sox, Arraez was batting .402 on the season. Now he stands at .397, an average 59 percentage points higher than the majors. Quite good.

Anyway, the Marlins begin a three-game series with the Seattle Mariners. The Mariners are only 2-9 in their last 11 appearances, but are -120 favorites Monday night at BetMGM. The Marlins are +100.

Elsewhere, the Cincinnati Reds are suddenly gaining some steam with a lineup of exciting rookies getting plenty of playing time. The most important name to know in that group is Elly De La Cruz, the 6-foot-5 infielder with tremendous power and blazing speed. The Reds are 4-2 with De La Cruz in the lineup with series wins over the Dodgers and Cardinals. On Monday, the Reds begin a three-game series with the Kansas City Royals. The Royals are -120 home favorites, the Reds are +100.

Another suddenly hot team is the Oakland Athletics. The A’s still have the worst record in the major leagues at 17-50, but they’re riding a five-win streak at home as they embark on a four-game streak with the Tampa Bay Rays, the team with the best record in the league (48-20). Predictably, the Rays are heavy favorites at -275. The A’s are +220.

Stanley Cup odds update

The Vegas Golden Knights can go from brand new franchise to Stanley Cup champion in just five seasons with just one win.

The Knights have a 3-1 lead over the Florida Panthers with the series back in Las Vegas for Game 5 on Tuesday night. The Knights won a Game 4 thriller in Florida on Thursday, held off a last-second barrage to win 3-2 and take the lead of the series.

Heading into Game 5, Vegas is -1100 to win the series at BetMGM and -175 for Game 5 in particular. The Panthers have been the underdog throughout the postseason and are once again in that position. For the series as a whole, the Panthers are +700 to win the next three to hoist the Cup. For Game 5, the Panthers have +145 odds at BetMGM.

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