Goran Dragic continues to cement his name as one of the league’s top point guards with another solid performance in the Heat’s win over the Bulls. He posted 20 points, 5 rebounds and 6 assists and was ably supporter by fellow guard Tyler Johnson who contributed with 19 points off the bench. It wasn’t the prettiest of wins for the Heat but it helped them inch closer to .500. MIami are bullying teams down low with 49.1 points a game in that department (third in the league) and 46.9% of their points coming in the paint. Hassan Whiteside, despite injury issues, has been the main driver of that with 14 points in the paint per game and he’s also giving them six second chance points per game.
The Nuggets got back their offensive groove in their win over the Raptors at home, scoring a lofty 129 points to Toronto’s 111. Jamal Murray continued his recent rich vein of form with 24 points while franchise big man Nikola Jokic had a near triple double with 8 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists. Denver were hot from the perimeter, shooting 50%, and were equally good from the field with 53.4%. Jokic has been a huge part of the team’s success from the field, shooting 54.8% from mid-range so far this season. While his assist numbers have been down somewhat he’s still averaging the second most assists for a center in the league (five).
Three keys to the game
Stopping Denver’s hot shooting – Denver have been on a hot streak from the field so far and possess the ninth best effective field goal percentage in the league (52.1). The Heat are 19th in the league for opponent field goal percentage so look for Denver to exploit that advantage. Miami will need to be active defensively to prevent this from being blown out.
Defending the paint – A large portion of the Heat’s scoring has come inside the paint. For the Nuggets to prevent that, Paul Millsap will have to play a large role and they’ll need to somehow hide Jokic on defense, as he’s been a liability on that end throughout his career. If they can nullify the Heat inside and turn that defense into offense the Nuggets will go a long way to getting the win.
Rebounding – Both teams are in the upper echelon when it comes to rebounding. Denver have the seventh best offensive rebound percentage (25.3) and ninth best overall rebounding percentage (50.9). Their opponents have the eighth best defensive rebounding percentage at 78.8%. Whoever wins the battle on the glass will certainly increase their chances of taking this one.
Matchup to watch
Nikola Jokic vs Hassan Whiteside – Both of these centres are two of the most dominant big men in the NBA today, though with contrasting games. It’s going to be interesting to watch their alternate styles as they battle each other. Can Whiteside defend Jokic from the mid range? Is Jokic strong enough to keep Whiteside from getting second-chance points? There are a lot of questions, but it’s going to be fun finding out the answers.
Miami Heat projected starting lineup
PG – Goran Dragic | SG – Dion Waiters | SF – Josh Richardson | PF – James Johnson | C – Hassan Whiteside
Denver Nuggets projected starting lineup
PG – Jamal Murray | SG – Gary Harris | SF – Wilson Chandler | PF – Paul Millsap | C – Nikola Jokic
For the Heat your best bet is to go with Dragic, the team’s most consistent performer who is averaging a touch under 20 points a game (19.9). James Johnson, though, is leading in three other key categories – steals (1.2), assists (4.5) and blocks (1.2). Either are a good choice for your fantasy team.
As for the Nuggets, Murray has been hot of late but may struggle against a seasoned performer in Dragic. Jokic is starting to find his form from last season and is due a huge performance. Will it come against a quality player like Whiteside? Go with a Heat player as their consistency is more likely than that of the Nuggets players.
Denver are 5.5 point favorites in this one. That looks a good bet with their recent form and the fact the game is at home. The total score consensus is at 215 which is a bit more interesting. That looks a bit more risky but it may be a better bet to take the under on that. Denver are averaging 107 points per game while the Heat are averaging 104, so the under looks a safer option.
The Nuggets are getting back to their form from last season and home advantage should help them get the win over the Heat. The Heat won’t go down without a fight, ultimately though Denver takes it out, 108-101.
Catch this game on league pass, Fox Sports Sun and Altitude. Tip-off is at 9.30pm at the Pepsi Center.
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