It may not be the most compelling or storied NBA Finals matchup, but it could turn out to be one of the most important. Whichever team wins this best-of-seven series will make history — either Jimmy Butler’s Heat as the first No. 8 seed to win a title or Nikola Jokic’s Nuggets with the franchise’s first championship.
What to expect
The Denver Nuggets cruised past a team led by basketball legend LeBron James in the Western Conference Finals to set up a date with destiny in the NBA finals. The team waited 47 years to get here and made the most of it, with two-time MVP big man Nikola Jokic leading the way. He has a pair of All-NBA types playing alongside him and they form the backbone of a historically efficient offense in which nobody stands still and everybody is a threat.
That is enough to make the Nuggets dangerous, even if they haven’t been perfect this season. Their lone blemish came when they allowed a 5-0 lead against the Boston Celtics to slip away in Game 7. But this is a team that has shown that it will be around for a while and one that knows how to win.
Jokic will need the help of his teammates if they want to win a third straight title, however. Jamal Murray is a point guard that has the ability to distribute with the best of them and his size and strength allow him to create mismatches with smaller defenders. Aaron Gordon added another 16 points to the mix and Kantevious Caldwell-Pope has proven that he can fill in as needed for the Nuggets.
Miami is a team that can be overlooked at times but it was resilient throughout the playoffs, winning its first round against Milwaukee and eliminating top-seeded New York in seven games. The Heat lost star center Bam Adebayo to injury in the second round but it was never a serious issue. The team has a lot of veteran presences, including Dwyane Wade, Udonis Haslem and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
That experience may not be as deep as the Nuggets’, particularly with three-point specialist Tyler Herro still recovering from a broken hand, but it will be a valuable asset as they attempt to make a run at the franchise’s seventh championship in a decade. They have won four of the previous six meetings with the Nuggets and will look to build on that success in Game 4. The series is scheduled to be played at the Kaseya Center in Denver and fans can catch the action live by purchasing tickets online at VAVEL.
As the top seed takes on a Play-In tournament winner, many pundits have this series pegged as a lopsided David vs. Goliath matchup, and it certainly has been entertaining and creative so far, but I don’t think this will be a blowout.
The Heat’s grit and refusal to die have served them well throughout the playoffs, from rallying past Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round to overcoming a 3-0 deficit to the Boston Celtics in Game 7. Taking it to Denver shouldn’t be any different.
This has been a remarkably balanced series so far, with the Nuggets’ offense putting enough pressure on Miami to allow their defense to shine. They have held the Heat to 95 points or fewer in each of the last three games, and they will continue to be a problem for the Heat if they can’t find an answer for Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray.
Jokic has been the focal point of the Nuggets’ attack all series, but I believe they can do enough to win without him on the floor. If they can limit his touches and take away his ability to get a double team, it should open things up for the likes of Jamal Murray and Aaron Gordon, who are both capable scorers when needed.
I expect the Nuggets to continue to employ their 2-3 zone, which they used to great effect against the Celtics in Game 7. They will use it to prevent penetration and force Miami’s role players to help, leaving them vulnerable to passes to Jokic and other teammates. This could be a problem for the Heat, who won’t want to engage Jokic’s passing chops by sending a full-court blitz at him (which they did just once in Game 2 according to Second Spectrum).
The Nuggets will also look to exploit the weakest link on Miami’s defence, which is their bench. Bam Adebayo has shown tremendous energy in the playoffs and can be a real problem for the Heat when given the opportunity. He will need some help from the rest of his teammates if he’s going to continue to be effective, though.
The Denver Nuggets blasted through the Minnesota Timberwolves and Phoenix Suns in the first round, swept the Los Angeles Lakers in the conference finals and have a chance to win their franchise’s first NBA championship in Game Five tonight. But if the Nuggets are to close out the series and win their first title, they’ll need to get past a Miami team that is a dangerous and unpredictable mix of veterans and young guns.
The Miami Heat have been one of the most resilient teams in the playoffs, but their resilience may have a limit. The Heat took a three-game lead in the Eastern Conference finals against the Celtics, only to watch the series go down to a Game 7. They have also been unable to get out of their own way in the NBA Finals against the Denver Nuggets, dropping four games.
It was a quiet start to Game Five at Ball Arena, but things got more interesting as the Nuggets took a commanding 2-0 lead. The Nuggets are built differently from other elite teams in the league, featuring a big man with a wide range of skills and a super-star point guard who can do it all. Their deep supporting cast has been a major factor throughout the playoffs and will be vital again on Wednesday night.
Midway through the second quarter, the Nuggets opened up a double-digit lead before the Heat rallied to tie it at the half. The Nuggets went on a quick 6-0 run to begin the third, and they are back up by two with under four minutes left in the game.
Fourth quarter – The Nuggets pulled away with a 5-0 run to open the fourth, but the Heat refused to go quietly. Jimmy Butler has woken up, going on a personal 13-point run for the Heat and bringing it to within one point with less than three minutes remaining.
The Nuggets will likely ice the game with a few free throws and one more good defensive possession, giving their starting five the night off for the remainder of the season. They have a +74.6 net rating with this lineup, which features an incredibly versatile group of players that can handle multiple roles in a game.
After a dominant performance in the Western Conference Finals, the Denver Nuggets are set to face the Miami Heat in the NBA Championship series. The Nuggets are making their first ever trip to the Finals and will be trying to win their first title in franchise history. Miami, on the other hand, is aiming for its fourth championship and has already become the second team to reach the Finals as an eighth-seeded team since the New York Knicks in 1999. Game 1 of the NBA Finals is scheduled for Thursday, June 1.
The Nuggets are led by two-time NBA MVP and all-star Nikola Jokic, who has put together a historic playoff run that includes a sweep of LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers. He is the best playmaker in the league and has surrounded himself with an excellent supporting cast, led by fellow star Jamal Murray. The Nuggets are a dangerous team that can beat you in a number of ways and have proven to be resilient throughout the playoffs.
Denver won the regular season series against the Heat 3-1 and has home court advantage in this best-of-seven series. The higher seed hosts Games 1 and 2, and then Games 3 and 4 (if necessary).
The best way to watch the NBA Finals is on ABC, which has exclusive broadcast rights to the event. Seasoned play-by-play commentator Mike Breen will call the action with analysts Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson offering expert analysis and insight. The sideline reporter will be Lisa Salters.
The series will also be available to stream online via WatchESPN and the ESPN app. Fans in the United States can also sign up for a free trial of Sling TV, which offers a live streaming option for all of the NBA’s biggest events including the Finals. Subscribers can use the promo code “NBAFINALS” to get a free month of service. For international viewers, the series will air on ESPN Deportes. For more information, please visit the NBA Finals website.