Florida, USA, May 30, 2023. The Nuggets had to cancel travel plans. Eventually, the NBA Finals would begin in Denver. And Jimmy Butler was right.
The NBA has its own duel for the championship: The Eastern Conference’s Monarchs Miami Heat will face the West’s monarchs, the Nuggets, after entering the playoffs as the eighth seed. The series begins on Thursday night in Denver.
The Heat settled into the NBA Finals after winning Monday night in Boston in the seventh game of the series for the Eastern title. They did so exactly one year after the Celtics won Game 7 in Miami to take the Eastern Crown.
“Next year, we’re going to be better and we’re going to go back to that same position, and we’re going to win,” Butler promised that night.
prophetic words. The Nuggets had planned to fly to Boston on Tuesday afternoon if they were to face the Celtics, who would have home-field advantage in the league championship series.
But the Heat had other ideas and prevailed in the deciding game, saving themselves from becoming the first team in NBA history to lose a series after taking a 3–0 lead.
Now he has to fight against Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets. The Heat will be playing in the Finals for the seventh time, and they are going for their fourth championship. Instead, the Nuggets would be in this instance for the first time in franchise history.
“When we wake up in the morning, we know our opponent,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said on Monday, hours before the start of Game 7 of the Celtics-Heat series. “We’ll know who our opponent is going to be, we’ll be able to turn the page and focus on that.”
Malone would be looking to win his first title. Erik Spoelstra of Miami will seek his third title as coach. If he does, Spoelstra will emulate Phil Jackson, Red Auerbach, Pat Riley (current Heat president), John Kundla, Greg Popovich and Steve Kerr as three-time champions.
Denver hasn’t had any upsets in these playoffs. The Nuggets are 12-3 in the playoffs, winning their last six games, easily dispatching Minnesota, Phoenix and the Lakers in the last three rounds.
Two-time league MVP Jokic averaged a triple-double against both the Suns and then the Lakers. He approaches the Finals with averages of 29.9 points, 13.3 rebounds and 10.3 assists per game. Lately, he has taken to the habit of pointing with his ring finger when he looks at his family in the arena. He is four wins away from including the ring he most covets.
“Nicola remains a humble and helpful person, more aware of his family, attentive to the care of his horses. That’s him,” Malone said. “You couldn’t have more respect for him as a man.”
The week before, Miami had come within striking distance of tying Denver – reaching the finals with a sweep. The Heat had forgotten that they were a modest 44–38 team in the regular season and had to win two playoff games to make the playoffs. They ousted Milwaukee, which was ranked number one in the East, in the first round; They went to New York on the second and finished right account with Boston.
“Sometimes you have to suffer for the things you really want,” Spoelstra said. “And this group has shown individuality … We have a lot more to do.”