After a disappointing overtime loss to the Kings last Wednesday, Miami bounced back with a 92-91 victory against the Lakers. Goran Dragic was the star in that game, putting up 30 points on 10-for-18 shooting. The Heat sit in eighth place in the Eastern Conference, but sit there very comfortable, 6.5 games ahead of the Pistons in ninth. With a record of 37-33, Miami can easily work their way up the standings with a string of victories.
The team they will face on Monday is in a similar position, albeit in the Western Conference, and with a much greater likelihood of missing the playoffs. Denver, with a 38-32 record, have slipped to tenth place, but they are still just two games behind the Jazz in fifth. Denver lost a third successive game that they should have won on Saturday, this one a 94-101 loss to the Grizzlies. Their normally potent offense failed to fire, with no player scoring over 17 points.
Three keys to the game
Nuggets on the road - Denver have a profound home advantage, potentially a result of the high altitude at which their home court sits, but this is mirrored by an equally poor away record. They are 11-22 on the road this season compared to 27-10 at home, and have lost their past three road games, all of which were against sides with records well under .500.
Banged up Heat - Miami have a couple of important injuries, with both Dwyane Wade and Hassan Whiteside missing recent games. The duo will sit this one out, too. Whiteside is an inconsistent player, but he is capable of being a hugely important one. Wade is obviously well past his prime, but he too has proven important in big moments since returning to Miami during the most recent trade period.
Denver’s shooting - The Nuggets have plenty of shooting capability on their roster, even with Gary Harris sitting on the sidelines with injury, and rank in the top ten in the league for 3-point percentage. Against the Grizzlies, however, they went 9-for-33 from long range.
Matchup to watch
Jamal Murray vs Goran Dragic - Murray is a talented young player, and in his second NBA season has shown significant improvement from his first. This season, he averages 16.4 points per game, almost seven points more than last season, is shooting at 46% from the field and 38.2% from beyond the arc, and also averages 3.2 assists. He has been in good form of late, scoring at least 16 points in all of his last five games and averaging 20.4 points, 4.2 assists, and 2.0 steals in this time.
He will have his hands full with Dragic, a man who was recently rewarded with an All-Star appearance for his consistent season. In 2017/18, Dragic is averaging 17.6 points, 4.0 rebounds and 4.8 assists, but has lifted his game to another level in the last week. In his past three games, the Heat point guard has averaged 28.7 points per game, including two 30-plus point outings.
Miami Heat predicted starting lineup
PG - Goran Dragic | SG - Tyler Johnson | SF - Josh Richardson | PF - James Johnson | C - Edrice Adebayo
Denver Nuggets predicted starting lineup
PG - Jamal Murray | SG - Will Barton | SF - Wilson Chandler | PF - Paul Millsap | C - Nikola Jokic
Jokic has been in great form of late. In his past six games, he has averaged 22.0 points, 10.5 rebounds, 6.5 assists, 2.0 steals and 1.0 blocks. He has also impressed in his brief career against Miami, a team he has faced five times. In this time, he has put up 15.2 points, 10.4 rebounds, 4.2 assists, and 1.8 steals per night.
Miami are favorites in this game, but only just. They have been given a 2.5-point handicap by oddsmakers, and they should be confident they can cover this line. The Heat are returning to a bit of form while facing a side which is significantly worse on the road than at home. Back Miami to cover this line.
Miami will be able to earn themselves an important win and send Denver further outside a playoff position. Dragic is in excellent form and, against a Denver backcourt which is missing Harris, will contribute another 25-plus point game to lead his side to victory. Jokic will enjoy Whiteside’s absence and, if he puts in a big performance, will give the Nuggets a chance. But the Heat will be too good at home on their way to a 107-102 win.
The game will be broadcast locally on Fox Sports Sun and Altitude. Tip-off is at 7:30pm ET.