🏀 The NBA Finals are here
⬅️ The road to the NBA Finals
Six weeks and 12 eliminated teams later, just two squads remain in contention for the Larry O’Brien Trophy. The Western Conference’s No. 1 Denver Nuggets are Finals bound for the first time after knocking out the No. 8 Minnesota Timberwolves and the No. 4 Phoenix Suns before sweeping the No. 7 LA Lakers.
- It’s somewhat of a Cinderella story in the Eastern Conference. The No. 8 Miami Heat overpowered three higher-seeded teams — the No. 1 Milwaukee Bucks, the No. 5 NY Knicks, and the No. 2 Boston Celtics — to become the first play-in team to reach the Finals.
👊 The matchup
The Nuggets and the Heat met just twice this regular season, with Denver coming out on top both times 112–108 and 124–119. And while the Nugs have home-court advantage as the higher seed, the Heat have history on their side, as they make their seventh Finals appearance.
As for the on-court outlook, these teams have two of the best offensive ratings in the playoffs, while their defensive ratings sit right in the middle of the pack — expect this series to be a high-scoring thrillfest.
⛰️ Denver Nuggets
Players to watch: Western Conference Finals MVP Nikola Jokić has been simply unstoppable throughout the postseason. The Serbian star already set a postseason triple-double record, with at least four games still left on the schedule. Iconic behavior.
- But nothing gets a basketball team grooving quite like a powerful duo, and the Nuggets boast one of the best: Jokić and Canadian Jamal Murray, who’s made a triumphant return from injury, providing the Joker crucial support on offense. Consider this bubble popped.
The head coach (HC): Denver has long been considered an underdog franchise and even been critiqued as “not very interesting,” despite an undeniable upward climb since HC Michael Malone’s 2015 arrival.
- In seven seasons, Malone has led his team to the playoffs four times — including their first two franchise WC Final appearances.
Keys to success: Jokić and Murray are a force to be reckoned with when they’re in sync. But what will put the Nuggets over the top is leaning into their squad’s depth. Role players Michael Porter Jr. and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope need to show up ready to battle every single game. Consistency is key.
🔥 Miami Heat
Players to watch: While he had somewhat of a poor Eastern Conference Final (ECF) showing (for him), it’s still all eyes on the legendary Jimmy Butler, who averages nearly 30 points a game. Plus the Heat have their own dynamic duo in Butler and his lieutenant, Bam Adebayo.
- But the secret to the Heat’s deep playoff run is their undrafted players. Guys like Caleb Martin (who enjoyed a breakout ECF campaign), Duncan Robinson, and Gabe Vincent have balled out in the biggest moments, commanding the same respect as the league’s superstars. Now that’s #HeatCulture.
The HC: Rising from video coordinator to the guy at the helm, Erik Spoelstra is widely regarded as one of the best HCs of all time. He’s led the Heat to six Finals appearances in 13 seasons, notching two titles along the way. Spoelstra’s coaching style is all about embracing the struggle, something his eight-seed squad has surely taken to heart.
Keys to success: If there’s one thing to know about the Heat, it’s that this team hustles. When they fall behind, their answer is to work harder than anyone else. That said, the Heat are a small team, which means shutting down a big man like Jokić will be an enormous challenge. But if they can continue to out-grind (and mentally outwit) their opponents, they’ll be tough to beat — especially if injured star Tyler Herro makes it back on the court.
📺 How to tune in
It all comes down to this — the showdown begins with Game 1 in Denver on June 1st at 8:30 p.m. ET, airing on TSN4. Don’t miss a minute.