Stat Padders

The Official Site of the Michigan Basketball Analytics Association

Mike Bets #536

6 min read

Happy Friday. Game 3 was the second game of this series that saw me go 1-1 with a hit on Nuggets spread and a loss on the over. The good news is that we’re 3-0 on spread plays so far in The Finals. Unfortunately, that’s joined by a 1-2 record on totals. We’ll look to hit on both tonight, but first, let’s take a look at Game 3.

  • Nuggets 109, Heat 94 (Nuggets lead 2-1)

The other day, I talked about the significant drop in passing volume that seemingly helped decrease Jokic’s Game 2 impact –

[Jokic is] averaging over 82 passes per game in the playoffs. He made 78 in Game 1, which pretty much tracks with that number. He made just 68 in Game 2, which is obviously a far cry from the average. In Game 1, he had 17 potential assists and 2 secondary assists. In Game 2, he had 11 potential assists and 0 secondary assists. Those are really significant differences.

After Game 3, there are some interesting numbers to dive into. Jokic is clearly passing a little less than he did earlier in the postseason. After averaging 83.4 passes, 10.3 assists, and 16.1 potential assists per game across the first three round of the playoffs, he’s averaging just 73 passes, 9.1 assists, and 13.7 potential assists in The Finals. But the “value” that he’s getting out of each pass isn’t really decreasing. By value I mean the rate at which a player is turning passes into potential assists. It’s one thing to simply spread the ball around the perimeter (sometimes important in its own right); it’s another to both recognize and make the passes that consistently lead to good looks. Jokic produced a potential assist every 5.18 passes in the first three rounds and is currently sitting at one potential assist per 5.32 passes in The Finals. There’s a small difference there, but it’s not significant, especially when compared to his regular season numbers (one potential assist for every 4.57 passes). Playoff defenses tend to be more intense and locked-in, so it’s not a surprise that the value of Jokic’s passes is down from the regular season. Lanes close quicker, closeouts are better, etc. But the numbers suggest that there was an attempt across the first three rounds to overcome that decreasing efficiency by simply passing a little more, an attempt that no longer shows up in this series. Whether intentional or not, Miami is limiting Jokic’s playmaking output, at least by a little bit.

The question is whether any of that really means anything. Theoretically, it does. Jokic is probably the best playmaker in the league (and almost certainly is if we include volume in our accounting), and he creates a lot of value out of his passes. If you can shift some of that playmaking into other hands, say MPJ, then the quality of said playmaking decreases – or ceases to exist altogether when Porter Jr pulls up for a contested jumper. The problem for the Heat is that any decrease they are helping create in Jokic’s passing output has simply been transferring to Jamal Murray, and there’s really no drop-off to be found there. If anything, Murray has been the better playmaker in these playoffs and especially this series. He doesn’t typically work at the same volume as Jokic, having completed 25.7 less passes per game during the regular season. But when he does look to set up others, he does it quite well. Murray produced a potential assist with every 4.69 passes during the regular season, which isn’t far off from Jokic’s number. And during the first three rounds, he didn’t see much of a drop-off at all. He completed about 7 more passes per game and needed only 0.13 more passes per potential assist, which suggests that the playoff defenses and their shrinking margins have largely been focused on the effects of Jokic’s passing rather than Murray’s. During The Finals, he’s really taken advantage, completing 77.3 passes per game, a rise of 28 from his regular season average. And he’s needed just 4.29 passes to create the average potential assist, which is a clear increase from his already very good regular season value creation. Murray has been fantastic as an offensive engine of his own, and he’s making it even hard to defend an offense that already has the league’s premier playmaking hub.

From a more general outlook, the Nuggets played a really nice overall game to take a 2-1 lead. Jokic and Murray stepped up to lead the way, and Aaron Gordon played well in support too. He’s been so good for them this year, helping to fill all of the defensive and rebounding holes. The bench was massive. Christian Braun came up huge with 15 points, and Bruce Brown also created an impact with 3 blocks and some big minutes in place of the struggling MPJ. Braun and Brown helped overcome some poor team perimeter shooting, and Denver continued to dominate the paint. Miami has had no answer there. They’re -48 in paint points, and the margin has grown from 8 to 14 to 26 as the series has gone on.

The Heat have their backs against the wall at this point. They got the Game 2 win by outshooting the Nuggets and taking advantage of some poor individual performances, but they’ve been beaten pretty soundly in the other two games. It’s going to take quite the reversal to get them across the finish line. Jimmy Butler and Caleb Martin did show some signs of life the other night, which helps. But they just can’t seem to shift the paint battle despite Bam Adebayo putting up some strong statistical performances. Butler has been okay but far from otherworldly, which is probably what they need him to be here. Gabe Vincent struggled for the first time all series in Game 3. Max Strus is not finding his shot. Tyler Herro remains out. Scoring in the 90s, which they’ve now done in two of three games, just isn’t going to get the job done. Over the last fifteen seasons, teams that score less than 100 in a Finals game are just 18-54. It ran through my head that I should add that none of those eighteen teams won without also holding the other team below 100 points since Denver has scored at least 104 in every game, but then I remembered that it’s literally impossible to win while scoring less than 100 if you don’t hold the other team below 100 too. In any case, the Heat are on the wrong end of this series in a lot of different ways. If they lose Game 4, it’s all but over.


✅✅✅ = right team, right number of games

✅✅ = right team, one game off

✅ = right team

❌ = wrong team

First round tally: 4-4 on team picks, 2 within a game 

Second round tally: 2-2 on team picks, 1 exactly right on games

Conference finals tally: 2-0 on team picks, 1 exactly right on games

Overall: 8-6, 2 within a game, 2 exactly right


Nuggets in 6 (Bucks > Grizzlies – yikes – was original pick)


NBA record: 257-219-8 ATS, 35-81 ML, 139-116-6 O/U, 2-10 parlay, 0-2 props, 2-3 series price -32.70 units

NBA regular season record: 225-198-7 ATS, 32-67 ML, 116-90-3 O/U, 2-10 parlay, 0-1 props, -23.62 units

NBA postseason record: 32-21-1 ATS, 4-14 ML, 23-25-3 O/U, 0-1 props, 2-3 series price, -9.08 units

  • Nuggets -3.5
  • Heat Nuggets U211


  • Nuggets 4-2 (+450)

CBB record: 254-229-12 ATS, 57-83 ML, 5-5 O/U, 17-25 parlay, -9.83 units

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Copyright © All rights reserved. | Newsphere by AF themes.