The NBA Finals are here and it’s time to see who gets to take home the coveted title. 16 teams entered this year’s playoffs in hopes of hoisting the hardware and it’s finally been whittled down to two. Those are The Denver Nuggets and The Miami Heat, who have faced very different paths to get here. 

The Denver Nuggets arrived here with a 53-29 record, which is the second best in the entire league. Their playoff run has been highlighted by the performances of Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray who average around 27 points per game. Jokic also has averages of 13.3 rebounds and 10 assists per game.

The Nuggets also have a variety of other players that could easily take over this game as well. This includes Aaron Gordon, Bruce Brown, and Michael Porter Jr.  All three average over ten points a game and have had great rebounding numbers in the postseason. This gives them a roster with depth that will be difficult to beat.

Just look at The Nuggets playoff record and you can see the impact the above names had on their run. For example, Nikola Jokic dropped 14 points, six assists and 13 rebounds in the opening game against The Grizzlies. Porter Jr dropped 18 points, 2 assists and 11 rebounds in that game.

Fast forward a little to the second round and The Nuggets got caught up in a semi competitive series with The Phoenix Suns. Denver even dropped two straight games in this series before winning the final two to move on. This probably represented the biggest roadblock for The Nuggets and is worth taking a look at.

While Jokic brought down 19 rebounds in the opening game against The Suns, Michael Porter and Aaron Gordon didn’t make the same level of contribution. Jamal Murray also sat below five rebounds that game, putting all the work on Jokic. That’s something The Miami Heat could easily exploit in The Finals

Skipping ahead to game three and The Suns handed The Nuggets a 121-114 loss. Jokic, Murray, Porter, and Gordon all put up great numbers, but they couldn’t stop Devin Booker and Kevin Durant from putting up 20+ points. This is another example of the Nugget’s weaknesses, which is why they will be interesting to watch.

The Nuggets are still going to be a very tough team to beat in The NBA Finals and The Heat have their work cut out for them. Not only is that evident by the combination of Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic, but also the supporting cast that has worked together very well. 

Furthermore, Jokic seems to excel no matter what role he is given. Whether that be rebounds, assists or points in the paint, Jokic will be an X factor for The Nuggets moving forward. Jamal Murray, Aaron Gordon, and Michael Porter all have great scoring abilities too, it’s just a matter of if they can play defense. 

That’s going to be what determines if they win a championship. It’s going to be difficult against guys like Butler and Adebayo though. More on this later, but The Heat head Coach, Eric Spoelstra has a knack for picking apart teams. That has to be a concern for The Nuggets going into The Finals, especially with Jokic being a majority of their offense production.

And then there’s the Miami Heat. The team that entered The NBA playoffs via a play in the tournament.  They started off the tournament getting beaten by The Atlanta Hawks but gained entry after a victory against The Chicago Bulls 102-91. That gave them the final slot in the east and pitted them against the #1 seeded Milwaukee Bucks’

While The Buck had the better record, The Heat managed to win the opening game of the series 130-117. The Heat did this by going a magical 60% from behind the arc and scoring in the paint more often. They also had a few steals and blocks to help them out. 

Of course, the Bucks won the second game to even the series and cool off The Heat a bit, but that didn’t last long. Believe it or not, the underdog Heat went on to win the next three games of the series to send the Bucks home in the first round.  This essentially makes the heat a very scary team to deal with in the playoffs.

For example, let’s move on to round two, where the Heat took on the #5 seed, Knicks. Again, The Knicks came in as a sort of favorite to finally knock The Heat out of the playoffs and it didn’t happen. Instead, The Heat would again win the first game of the series 108-101. It also showed just how versatile the Heat are as a team.

Jimmy Butler and Gabe Vincent both had 20-point performances, while Bam Adebayo brought down eight rebounds and 16 points. Another key performer during that game was Kyle Lowry, who knocked down 18 points, five rebounds and six assists. Despite the Knicks out rebounding them, scoring more field goals and having more assists, The Heat had a 10% edge from behind the arc and a whopping 19.3% edge in free throws.

It seems like The Heat are very much a team that finds weak spots and capitalizes on them. They are also a team that are remarkably deadly from behind the arc and the free throw line. They just seem to know what to exploit in another team and then turn the tables.

This is what helped them to eventually win their series over The Knicks and move on to Boston. Unfortunately for The Celtics, they also fell victim to The Heats divide and conquer strategy. Take the first game of the semifinal’s series, where Jimmy Butler put up 35 points and Bam Adebayo put up 20 of his own.

And that’s not even mentioning Gabe Vincent, Max Straus, Caleb Martin, and Kyle Lowry, who all scored 15 points during the game.  Maybe the real credit with this team should go to Erik Spoelstra. The man that very much picked apart every opponent as he went. He utilized his team the right way and got the edge where he knew there was one.

So who’s going to win this battle of underdogs and undeniable favorites?  Everyone might want to say The Denver Nuggets and there are a lot of good reasons for that. Even if The Heat manage to pick apart Jokic, there’s still Murray, Porter Jr and Bruce Brown.

On the other hand, The Heat have arguably one of the hottest offenses in the NBA right now. Their 3 points percentage has been nothing short of deadly and the free throw game is pretty much on point. They also have a way of just dominating rebounds, which will be interesting to watch when put up against Jokic.

In the end, it’s going to come down to whether Erik Spoelstra can deconstruct The Nuggets. Or will The Nuggets with Jokic, Murray and company just run roughshod against the underdog. With that all in mind, my personal prediction is that The Nuggets will win the series 4-2 over The Miami Heat. 

Let’s be honest here. The combination of Jokic, Murray and company in the paint is unmatched. Not to mention their rebounding ability, which will make it difficult for The Heat to get second chance shots. One would also have to imagine The Heat’s success behind the Arc drooping with Jokic guarding you.

There’s just no way to overcome the looming locomotive that is the Denver Nuggets and that’s why we say Nuggets in 6. It should still be a competitive series at first and fun to watch for diehard NBA fans. Of course they aren’t the biggest of markets, but there seems to be something special about this year’s Finals. A purity if you will.

Picture: Getty Images

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