It feels like yesterday that I was getting jittery to write my preview for the upcoming NBA season. Looking back on that article, I noticed neither the Nuggets or Heat were even mentioned. While you could call it poor reporting, it more so shows the inexplicable nature this season has provided us.
Flash forward to the present, where the Nuggets and Heat are set to square off in what most expect to be a lopsided finals. Denver is a whopping -460 to win the series, one of the biggest favorites in recent NBA history.
Though the odds may be stacked against Miami, Vegas isn’t stopping Erik Spoelstra, Jimmy Butler and company from believing they can win a championship. Behind tremendous defense, timely offense and tremendous play from Butler, the Heat have pulled off one of the most improbable runs to the finals ever.
Miami, after all, wasn’t even guaranteed a spot to start these playoffs. They had to earn their right of passage through the play-in, and after losing to Atlanta in the first game, hope was dwindling for the long shot Heat. They found their “secret stuff” just in the nick of time, defeating Chicago in the play-in, followed by a monumental upset of the #1 seed Milwaukee Bucks.
Behind a few other-worldly performances from Jimmy Butler, consistent play from role players and unique coaching, Miami took out the Knicks in six games. The only squad left that stood between them and a shot at the finals was most people’s championship favorite, the Boston Celtics.
The series displayed no lack of drama, as Miami jumped out to a 3-0 lead just to have the Celtics fire back with three straight wins of their own. This set up what was supposed to be an epic game seven, and a game most counted Miami out in. Just like all playoffs, however, Miami played the role of spoiler and was able to take down the mighty Celtics.
Denver comes in as the much more rested team after they made easy work of the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals. The Nuggets are lead by Nikola Jokić, a two-time NBA MVP and runner-up this season. Jokić is a triple-double machine and quite frankly one of the best all around centers the NBA has ever seen.
Despite Jokić’s greatness, the Nuggets aren’t a one man band. Jamal Murray has turned into one of the better point guards in the NBA. His ability to fill it up from distance and run the two man game with Jokić makes him just as dangerous. Denver has gotten incredible play from their role players as well, including the likes of Michael Porter Jr, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Bruce Brown. If these players keep on their hot streak, it is hard to envision a world where Miami comes out on top in this best of seven duel.
Now that we are familiar with both sides, it’s officially prediction time.
There is no denying that myself and the world has doubted the Miami Heat way too often this year. After a sub-par regular season, it seemed as though they limped into the playoffs and were prepared to be bounced early. They did the complete opposite and responded with Heat culture.
Jimmy Butler has proven during these playoffs he is in the discussion of top ten players in the world. Erik Spoelstra has shown us that he may be the best coach in the NBA. Miami plays like a hungry dog every night and that’s not something to take lightly.
After all that said, I have to side with the Denver Nuggets to win this series. The tandem of Jokić and Murray is the best in the NBA currently. Denver’s role players are playing better than anyone. Mike Malone has shown his ability to make adjustments when Denver has needed it most.
Lastly, the home court advantage for Denver plays a huge role in my mind. Denver plays an elite brand of ball at home, and paired with the altitude and ability to push the pace, I expect the Nuggets to take both games at home and jump out 2-0. I can only give Miami one game in this series, so I will go with Denver in five games.
If the Heat are able to come out on top in this series and win the championship, it would be arguably the greatest playoff run ever. With so much on the line during these finals, game one could give a huge indication of the path this series is going to take.
Game one from Ball Arena tips tonight at 7:30 pm in Denver. The game will be aired on ABC.