The Denver Nuggets stand two victories away from their first NBA title, and their top two players are coming off historic performances.
But the Nuggets remember their Game 2 home loss and know they will need to deliver a supreme effort on Friday night when they visit the Miami Heat in Game 4 of the NBA Finals.
Denver holds a 2-1 edge in the best-of-seven series and is setting out to win back-to-back games in Miami.
The Nuggets are consensus 3.5-point favorites to do just that. They have received 62 percent of the spread-line bets for Game 4 at BetMGM and 66 percent at BetRivers. However, the public has been split on the money between the two books, backing Denver with 66 percent at the former and Miami with 65 percent at the latter.
SETTING THE SCENE
The most popular Game 4 player prop at BetMGM is for Nuggets star Nikola Jokic to score the first field goal at 500, which is understandable as he and teammate Jamal Murray come off history-making performances in Game 3, won by Denver 109-94.
Jokic produced a stat line of 32 points, 21 rebounds and 10 assists and became the first player ever to log at least 30 points, 20 rebounds and 10 assists in an NBA Finals game. It was just the fifth such contest in NBA playoff history -- three coming from Jokic and one each from Hall of Fame members Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Murray scored a game-high 34 points to go with 10 rebounds and 10 assists. It represents the first game in which two players on the same team scored at least 30 points during a triple-double in NBA history.
The most popular Game 4 player prop at BetRivers is Murray at -375 to score more than 21.5 points, which has garnered 13.6 percent of the action at the book.
"They played amazing," veteran forward Jeff Green said. "They took what the defense gave them. Jokic has been doing it all year. Both of them, Jamal as well. We feed off of those guys. They make the game easy for us and we try to do the same for them."
Denver also dominated the interior. The Nuggets had a 58-33 rebounding advantage and a 60-34 edge in points in the paint.
HEAT RUNNING ON FUMES?
The Heat appear to be losing steam during a playoff run that began with them claiming a berth through the play-in round and then upsetting the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks in the first round.
Miami took a 3-0 lead over the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals. Since then, the Heat have dropped five of seven games.
And if Miami falls behind 3-1, two of the final three games of the series are scheduled for Denver. The Nuggets' loss in Game 2 was their first in 10 home games this postseason.
Heat center Bam Adebayo said the squad has faced challenging situations before.
"You trust one another to do their job, and you let the chips fall where they may," said Adebayo, who had 22 points and 17 rebounds in Game 3. "You trust 1 through 5, 1 through 15. You trust the staff. Everybody has a belief that you can get that job done.
"If everybody has that belief and everybody comes with the right mindset, that is how you can get it done."
Six of the Heat's past seven games have gone under the total points line. The Over/Under is 211 points at BetRivers, where the Over has been backed by 62 percent of the bets while the Under has drawn a whopping 70 percent of the money.
--Jokic is averaging 33.3 points, 14 rebounds and 9.3 assists, while Murray is contributing 26 points, 10 assists and 6.7 rebounds. Jokic has 10 triple-doubles this postseason.
--The Nuggets have won eight of their past nine games against the Heat and have covered the spread in four consecutive road games.
Miami guard Tyler Herro will again sit out, coach Erik Spoelstra said Thursday. Herro broke the hand on April 16 in Game 1 of the first-round series against the Milwaukee Bucks and underwent surgery on April 21.
THEY SAID IT
"I continue to be who I am. We will continue to be who we are as a group, as a team. We're going to go out here and compete together. We're going to win together." -- Miami's Jimmy Butler, who is averaging 20.7 points and shooting 42.1 percent in the series.
--Field Level Media