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NBA Finals Game 1 Preview: Can Miami slow down star center Nikola Jokic?

How the Denver Nuggets and Miami Heat stack up to begin the NBA Finals.

DENVER — The Denver Nuggets host their first-ever NBA Finals game on Thursday in Game 1 of the championship series against the Miami Heat.

On a Thursday edition of the Locked On NBA podcast, hosts Nick Angstadt and Pat Morenzoni broke down their expectations and questions heading into Game 1.

After a grueling seven-game battle against Boston, the Heat enter with the rest disadvantage and are the clear betting underdogs.

“Denver’s coming off nine days rest, Miami’s coming off two days rest,” Angstadt pointed out. “It’s just going to be a factor, especially in Game One.”

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Nuggets center Nikola Jokic is the favorite to win Finals MVP and has dominated the postseason from the first round on. Miami does not have a clear one-on-one answer against the size and versatility Jokic presents. The Heat’s All-Defense center, Bam Adebayo, is just 6-foot-9.

“The scariest part about Jokic … is that’s a big person,” Morenzoni said. “That’s tough to wear down.”

While the Heat are often able to get opponents out of sorts with their zone defense, Jokic and the Nuggets’ offense has the size, creativity and shooting to punish Miami when they play zone.

“This is a dangerous Nuggets team shooting the ball,” Morenzoni said. “That (Miami) zone kind of forced Boston to shoot it, which is where they struggled.”

Denver and Miami are the top three-point shooting teams in the NBA playoffs. But even if they play to a draw in that category, the Nuggets still have the individual interior shot-making of Jokic and the perimeter flurries of Murray to fall back on.

For the Heat to keep up, they will likely need Adebayo to not only give Jokic a fight inside as a defender, but also score the ball at a high level to keep Jokic honest when the Nuggets are defending.

“You have to have Bam Adebayo scoring offensively in the series for the Heat to have a chance,” Morenzoni said.

Denver is a 9-point favorite at home in Game 1 on the FanDuel Sportsbook, the official sportsbook of the Locked On Podcast Network. Tip-off is at 8:30 p.m. ET.

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