An NBA Finals showdown between a Denver Nuggets group trying to establish its championship-caliber and a young Miami Heat roster that has made defying the odds a hallmark.
Serbian player and two-time NBA MVP Nikola Jokic leads the top-seeded Nuggets of the Western Conference against Jimmy Butler and the Heat, who just needed to win a play-in game to get an eighth-seed in the Eastern Conference.
On Thursday in Denver, the best-of-seven championship series will begin. Since joining the league in 1976, this is the Nuggets' first appearance to the NBA Finals.
After 46 seasons of failure, Denver has earned its respect after finally being given the top playoff seed this year.
We still have a lot of work to do if we want to win a championship, according to Nuggets coach Michael Malone.
The little respect we get seems to have been going on for years in some dusty old cowtown in the Rocky Mountains. You may either choose to accept who we are and what we have or you can sit there and whine about it.
“People will continue to criticize us until we achieve success. This is what motivates us. Making it to the finals is insufficient. It is championship success.
The 6-foot-11 (2.11m) center Jokic averaged 24.5 points, 11.8 rebounds, a career-high 9.8 assists per game, and a career-best 63.2% field goal percentage this season.
The key to slowing down Jokic, according to Miami center Bam Adebayo, is “making him take tough shots,” but he also said, “The biggest thing for us is try to limit his assists.” It's easier said than done, however. Watching movies and finding it out is the most important thing for us.
In addition to guard Jamal Murray, who missed the whole 2021–22 season due to a ruptured left knee ligament, the Nuggets have a talented and deep roster surrounding Jokic. In the playoffs, he's scoring 27.7 points on average.
I'm overjoyed for Jamal. He's a unique player,” stated Jokic. He definitely stepped up and has been our greatest player ever since the first round. His vibe is positive regardless of whether he makes shots or not. He continues to struggle.
The Nuggets' dominance in the postseason has been attributed to the supporting performances of Denver forwards Michael Porter Jr., Aaron Gordon, Bruce Brown, and guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who all average 10-15 points per game.
Murray stated, “When we simply play the proper way, everything opens up. We've been playing for each other for a long, and when we do, everyone eats. We just have a fantastic rhythm while playing selfless basketball.
And there will be more.
We still need four victories, Murray added. The first Nuggets squad to win it all. All we want to do is take advantage of the situation.
STEEL HEAT FORGED
The Nuggets must overcome the giant-killing Heat club in order to do that; they are just the second eighth-seeded team since the 1999 New York Knicks to go to the NBA Finals.
Miami, who dropped two games to Denver during the regular season, fell to Atlanta in a play-in game, and then defeated Chicago to claim the last East playoff slot.
After allowing the Celtics to come back from a 0-3 deficit, the Heat upset NBA victories leader Milwaukee, defeated New York, and edged Boston in the East final in seven games.
There are some amazing athletes in the locker room. They like the challenge, said to Heat coach Erik Spoelstra.
You can't always get what you want. Unavoidable failures occur; what matters is how you respond to them collectively. Your spirit may be diminished. For whatever cause, it may bring a squad to its knees. With this group, it has strengthened, bonded, and toughened us.
In the playoffs, Butler has been averaging 28.5 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 5.7 assists per game, but “Jimmy Buckets” claims he isn't done yet.
“Nobody is satisfied,” he said. “We have not taken any action. We don't compete only to take home the Eastern Conference title. We compete to win the whole game.
A massive underdog in the championship game is exactly what Adebayo wants.
“When you go through what we went through this whole season, people writing us off, to be four games away from a championship just speaks volume to, one, we never quit, and two, everybody rallied together,” he added.