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Monday, May 20, 2024

NBA Finals preview: Denver Nuggets versus Miami Heat

Two of the biggest stars in the NBA, Jimmy Butler and Nikola Jokic, will go head-to-head in the series

 

By MEGAN JOSEPH  — sports@theaggie.org

 

The NBA Finals between the Denver Nuggets and the Miami Heat opened last Thursday night. The Nuggets took game one with a dominant display of offense and strong defense that held Jimmy Butler, who averaged 22.9 points per game in the regular season and 27.6 in the postseason so far,  to just 13 points. In game two, the Heat impressively responded with a win to tie the series at 1-1. Being down by eight going into the fourth quarter, the Heat couldn’t miss from the three-point line and walked out of Denver with high hopes. With five games remaining, the first team to win four games wins the coveted NBA Championship.  

Since 2003, the NBA playoffs have been set up to a total of four rounds. Each round is organized in a best-of-seven-games series format. This means each round will be between four and seven games, depending on how many games each team wins. Teams are seeded within their conferences, the Western and Eastern Conferences. The top six seeded teams in each conference automatically qualify for the playoffs and the remaining two spots are decided by a play-in tournament. The teams that are seeded seventh through 10th in the regular season in their conferences compete in the tournament.

 

How they got here

The Nuggets, representing the Western Conference, displayed an outstanding performance this season, which explains why they are the favored team to win the championship. In the first round of the playoffs, the Nuggets defeated the Minnesota Timberwolves in five games. In the second round, they defeated the Phoenix Suns in six games. In the Western Conference semi-finals, the Nuggets swept the Los Angeles Lakers in four games. Their performance in the postseason put the Nuggets in the NBA Finals for the first time in history, in large part thanks to their two-time MVP, Nikola Jokić.

Jokić has put up impressive stats all season and in the postseason with his impressive performances against the Suns and the Lakers. In the first game of the finals, Jokić joined Lebron James as the second player in the last 25 years that put up 10 points and have 10 assists in the first half of an NBA Finals game. In the upcoming games, it is safe to say that fans are waiting on the edge of their seats to see what Jokić has in store.

The road to the finals wasn’t as easy and clean for the opposing team, the Miami Heat. As depicted by Fox News and many other media outlets, the Heat is considered to be huge underdogs in the finals. Miami became the second team in NBA history to reach the NBA Finals as an eighth-seeded team. Led by Jimmy (“Buckets”) Butler, the Heat fought through every round’s challenges to earn their spot in the finals. The Heat started off the play-in tournament on the wrong foot, as they lost to the Atlanta Hawks in a close game. However, the Heat rebounded with a win against the Chicago Bulls that placed them as the No. 8 seed in their conference, meaning they would get the last remaining spot to play in the playoffs. From there, the Heat beat the Milwaukee Bucks in five games and the New York Knicks in six games. Everything was looking good for the Heat until their toughest series came against the Boston Celtics. 

Miami started the series 3-0, needing just one win to advance to the NBA Finals. However, the Celtics turned things around to win three straight games, tying the series 3-3. With both teams needing the final win to advance to the finals, game seven was “winner takes all.” The Celtics put up a strong defensive performance against the Heat’s offense, but ultimately, the Heat was too hot for the Celtics and won with a final score of 103-84. Butler had an impressive game, putting up 28 points, seven rebounds and six assists, earning him the 2023 Eastern Conference finals MVP title for his efforts. 

Overall, the remaining games of the finals should be a powerful showdown between two of the best teams in the NBA this season. Though one team has been considered the favorite as the No. 1 seed, while the other is a huge underdog as the No. 8 seed, this series should be one of the most entertaining finals in a long time, with arguably two of the best players in the NBA today going head-to-head. Game three was on Wednesday, June 7, in Miami.  

 

Written by: Megan Joseph — sports@theaggie.org