NBA Finals: First Basket Odds


The Nuggets took both games in Miami to put a stranglehold on this NBA Finals series. They’re just one win away from their first-ever NBA Championship, but counting the Heat out at any point before the final buzzer has been a foolish endeavor for multiple years now.


Let’s have some more fun and look at what the “first basket” offerings look like in the prop market for Game 5. 

NBA Finals Game 5: First Basket Odds

During the 2023 season and throughout the playoffs, Denver has won the tap in 46.5% of games compared to 53.8% for Miami. Nikola Jokic has a two-inch and roughly 30-pound size advantage over Bam Adebayo, and the two teams split the tap through the first two games, each winning one in Denver. 

We correctly predicted that Miami would control the tap in both Game 3 and 4 after watching the tape of Denver’s Game 1 first possession and remembering that it was Adebayo actually controlling the tap. However, they failed to scoop it up because Caleb Martin vacated the spot next to Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who ended up grabbing possession.


As a reminder, Jokic controlled most taps against guys like Karl-Anthony Towns in the first round and Jock Landale near the end of the second round. But Jokic has struggled to win the first possession against more physically imposing and athletic opposing centers like Deandre Ayton, Anthony Davis and now Adebayo. Adebayo, on the other hand, got the best of Brook Lopez and Al Horford for the most part this postseason and was largely unsuccessful against more athletic centers like Mitchell Robinson and Robert Williams. It makes sense for Adebayo to be at an advantage here, and that approach has worked well for us over the last two.

I’m going with Miami to win the tip again, but we still need to figure out who’s going to score the first basket. The consensus in this article for Game 3 and Game 4 was that Adebayo is a safe pick, while Kevin Love is the value play in the prop market. Adebayo leads Miami this season scoring the first basket in 12.2% of games. He also leads the Heat in the 2023 playoffs, scoring the first basket in eight of 22 postseason games after converting the first bucket in both Game 3 and 4. 

He once again has shortest odds on DK of any Miami player (as he should) at +500, the same odds we saw before Game 4. I know I sound like a broken record at this point, but that’s still the safest way to go. Jimmy Butler, who has scored the first bucket for Miami in 8.1% of games this season and just three of 22 postseason tilts, hasn’t scored the first basket for the Heat since the second round. I’m staying away from him, even though his odds have increased from +550 in Game 4 to +600 as of this writing. Once again, I’ll take Bam if going the “safe” route.


Let’s take a look back at Love, who was our pick before both Games 3 and 4. The veteran forward was inserted back into the starting five in Game 2 after catching a DNP-CD in Game 1. Love has appeared in 19 of the 22 playoff games for Miami in 2023 and started 17 of them. Of those starts, he scored the first basket for Miami in four games, the second most of any Heat player in the postseason. Love has the longest odds of any starter for either team on DK at the time of this writing at +1200. Love passed up a shot attempt on the first possession of Game 3 after receiving a dribble handoff from Butler when Michael Porter Jr. was late to recover. 

He ended up dishing it to Adebayo, who missed, then scored on the second possession. Love knocked down an open three on Miami’s third possession in that one. In Game 4, Miami controlled the tap and ran a set springing Gabe Vincent for an open three that was missed, then Bam scored on the second possession on a transition break. Love was open at the top of the key on the third possession, but Adebayo looked him off in favor of a contested midrange attempt. Love knocked down an open three for Miami’s second basket in Game 4, and he’s been involved enough early on for me to go back there for Game 5 at +1200. 

Keep an eye on the Heat’s starting lineup, however. Tyler Herro was upgraded to questionable and is now expected to play tonight for the first time since injuring his hand in the first game of the playoffs. There’s a non-zero chance Miami shakes up the starting five with their backs against the wall and their best pure scorer returning. 

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