Miami Heat vs. Denver Nuggets Pick & Prediction MARCH 13th 2024

It will be a rematch of last year’s NBA Finals on Wednesday — with a twist.

The reigning-champion Denver Nuggets, led by two-time NBA MVP Nikola Jokic, are set to visit the Miami Heat. Denver has won three straight games and nine of 10.

Miami is going in the opposite direction with three straight losses, including an embarrassing 110-108 home defeat to the lowly Washington Wizards on Sunday.

Going forward, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra wants his squad to tighten down on defense.

“You don’t want to give anybody anything,” Spoelstra said, “no air space.”

Miami will be without its second-leading scorer Tyler Herro (20.8 points per game) for the ninth straight games due to a foot injury. The Heat have been in need of his dynamic offense, especially his 3-point shooting (39.9 percent).

The Heat will also be without key reserve forward Kevin Love (foot), whose brilliant outlet passes often ignite fast breaks. He has averaged 9.0 points off the bench but will miss his seventh straight game.

Until they return, Miami will lean on leading scorer Jimmy Butler (21.7 points) and top rebounder Bam Adebayo (19.9 points, 10.4 boards). Butler missed practice Tuesday with an illness but is expected to play Wednesday.

Miami’s role players include All-Rookie candidate Jaime Jaquez Jr., scoring guard Terry Rozier, 3-point shooter Duncan Robinson and high-flyer Caleb Martin.

The Heat have already played the Nuggets once this season, losing in Denver 103-97 on Feb. 29. Michael Porter Jr. led Denver with 30 points in that game.

“(That game) had a playoff vibe to it,” Porter said. “(The Heat) play hard — really hard.”

More recently, the Nuggets defeated the Toronto Raptors 125-119 on Monday night. Jokic had a triple-double in that game with 35 points, 17 rebounds and 12 assists for his 21st triple-double of the season. He also had six steals.

“He does a really good job of anticipating and playing the angles,” teammate Jamal Murray said of Jokic’s ability to get steals. “It’s about playing the line of the pass.”

For the season, Jokic is averaging 26.2 points, 12.3 rebounds, 9.2 assists and 1.3 steals. He is shooting 62.8 percent on 2-pointers and 34.9 percent on 3-pointers.

Unlike the Heat, the Nuggets are healthy with none of their key players on the injured list.

Jamal Murray is averaging 21.2 points and 6.6 assists. He also leads Denver’s rotation regulars in 3-point percentage (42.0).

Porter, plagued by back injuries earlier in his career, is averaging 16.6 points and 7.0 rebounds. He is shooting 57.8 percent on 2-pointers and 39.6 percent from distance. Porter set a career high last season with 62 games played. This season, he has already played 64.

Denver’s other starters are Aaron Gordon and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.

Gordon, who is shooting 62.0 percent on 2-pointers, is averaging 13.9 points and 6.4 rebounds. Nuggets coach Mike Malone believes Gordon is one of the league’s most underrated players, which is why he played him 35.7 minutes per postseason game. Only Jokic and Murray got more playoff minutes among Nuggets players last season.

Caldwell-Pope, who is shooting 39.6 percent on 3-pointers, is averaging 10.1 points. He also plays tenacious defense. –Field Level Media

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