Finally, we have a matchup for the championship series: the Miami Heat, who won the Eastern Conference despite entering the playoffs as the No. 8 seed, will face off against the Denver Nuggets, who won their conference and will represent the Western Conference in the NBA Finals. The series’ first game will take place on Thursday night in Denver.
The victory of the Heat in Game 7 of the East title series, which took place on Monday night in Boston, propelled them to this position. It was exactly one year to the day after the Celtics won Game 7 on the court of Miami Arena to clinch the Eastern Conference championship a year ago.
That evening, Butler made a solemn commitment and stated, “Next year, we will have enough, and we are going to be right back in the same situation, and we are going to get it done.”
These statements turned out to be prescient after watching The Heat.
The Denver Nuggets had a trip to Boston provisionally arranged for the afternoon of Tuesday in case they ended up playing the Boston Celtics, who would have had the advantage of playing the championship series at their arena.
But the Heat had other plans, as they won the deciding game to avoid becoming the first team in NBA history to lose a series after claiming a 3-0 lead. Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets will now have to face the Heat to win the championship. The Heat are competing in the NBA Finals for the seventh time and looking to win their fourth championship. On the other hand, the Nuggets are competing in the NBA Finals for the very first time in their history.
“When we wake up tomorrow morning, we know who we’re playing,” the head coach of the Nuggets, Michael Malone, remarked on Monday, a few hours before Game 7 of the NBA Finals between the Celtics and the Heat began. “We are aware of who we will be preparing for, and as a result, we can “turn the page” and truly concentrate on that. The championship round of the Eastern Conference has been one thrilling series.”
Malone will compete in the National Basketball Association championship for the first time. If Denver is victorious, he will become the 36th coach in the league’s history to win a title. The Heat’s presidents, Pat Riley, John Kundla, Gregg Popovich, and Steve Kerr, are the only other coaches in NBA history to win three titles as head coaches. Erik Spoelstra, who is currently the head coach of the Miami Heat, is looking to become the eighth coach in NBA history to win three titles.
In these playoffs, Denver has yet to run into any significant obstacles. The Nuggets have a record of 12-3 in the playoffs and have won their last six games. As a result, they have seized control of their matchups against Minnesota in the first round, Phoenix in the second round, and the Los Angeles Lakers in the West finals.
Jokic, a two-time winner of the Most Valuable Player award, comes into these finals with 29.9 points, 13.3 rebounds, and 10.3 assists per game. He averaged a triple-double against both the Suns and the Lakers. Recently, one of his trademark actions has been to glance at his family while pointing to the ring finger on his left hand; at this point, he is only four wins away from the piece of jewelry he covets the most.
“Nikola is still a humble, selfless person, and he cares about home, family, and his horses — the guy is just who he is,” Malone said. “The guy is just who he is.” “As a result, I couldn’t possibly have any more respect for him as a man.”
A week ago, Miami had a chance to replicate Denver’s success by advancing to the championship round without dropping a single game. Instead, it’s almost as if the Heat have forgotten that they were a 44-38 team that needed two play-in games to get into the playoffs; they eliminated the No. 1 overall seed Milwaukee in Round 1, got past New York in Round 2, and then avenged last season’s loss to Boston in the East finals by somehow going onto the Celtics’ home floor and winning a Game 7 to avoid the permanent stench of being the first team in NBA history to waste a 3-0 series lead.
Spoelstra is quoted as saying, “Sometimes you need to suffer for the things that you want.” “And yet, this community has demonstrated resilience… There is still more work for us to do.”
Without a doubt, it was a week straight from hell. But the Heat made it, becoming only the second No. 8 seed to compete in the championship game.
“Everybody rallied around each other,” Heat center Bam Adebayo said after the game.
Udonis Haslem has been a part of all three championships won by the Heat, Kevin Love won a title with Cleveland, and Kyle Lowry won a tournament with Toronto. Miami has three players on its roster who have won championships. One of the players on the Nuggets roster has won an NBA championship. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope of Denver won it with the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Restart Bubble game against the Miami Heat in 2020.
Butler, Adebayo, Duncan Robinson, Tyler Herro, and Gabe Vincent are also returning from the team that competed in the Heat finals. Besides Caldwell-Pope, the only other Denver player with previous experience in the NBA Finals is Jeff Green, who was a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers and participated in the championship series in 2018.
Therefore, most participants will be vying for their first ring. Haslem is looking to finish his career with a fourth championship, and Lowry is one of the fortunate few who has the opportunity to compete for the Larry O’Brien Trophy for a second time.
He recalls how long it took him in 2019, after the Raptors won their title, to start thinking about winning his next one. But, of course, this was after the Raptors had already won their championship.
Lowry speculated that it could be the following day. “And every champion, every NBA champion, will tell you this: There is a high that you have never felt before, and you want to feel that high once more. There is nothing else quite like that.”
During the regular season, Denver was victorious in their matchups versus Miami. And without a doubt, representatives from both teams will assert that those games won’t have any weight after Thursday.
“The Heat is playing at an unbelievably high level,” Malone remarked. “What Jimmy Butler has been doing since Round 1 against Milwaukee, continued that Round 2 against New York, and now what he’s doing versus Boston is just historical. This has been going on since the beginning of the playoffs. And Erik Spoelstra… obviously Spo is one of the best coaches in the league, someone who I have a huge amount of regard for as a coach but also simply as a buddy.” And “And Erik Spoelstra obviously Spo is one of the finest coaches in the league.”