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NBA Finals preview: Nuggets and Heat set to battle for the title

After a dream playoffs, both teams will fight for the championship in the decisive series. All eyes will be on Nikola Jokić and Jimmy Butler.

Finales de la NBA 2023. Diseño: Voz Media

(Voz Media-Cordon Press)

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On June 1, the fight for the NBA championship will begin. The Denver Nuggets and the Miami Heat will face off in the NBA Finals, which will crown the champion of the world's best basketball league, who will succeed Golden State Warriors on the throne.

The first two games will be played at Ball Arena in Denver, while the next two will be at the Kaseya Center in Miami. In the absence of a sweep by either franchise, the fifth would be held in Denver, the sixth in Miami and the seventh and final again in Denver.

The Nuggets: from regular season top seed to NBA Finals

The Denver Nuggets advanced to the playoffs as the Western Conference's best regular season team, with a record of 53-29. They conceded only seven of the 41 games they played on their home court. The team led by Michael Malone quickly stamped its tickets to the playoffs, where they have solidified themselves among the NBA's elite.

In the first round of the playoffs, they disposed of the Minnesota Timberwolves with a 4–1 series win. They dominated in the first three games, though it was in Game 5 that the Nuggets clinched a berth in the Western Conference Semifinals.

In this round, they met the Phoenix Suns. Many viewed Phoenix as a slight favorite thanks to a roster featuring Devin Booker, Kevin Durant, DeAndre Ayton and Chris Paul, among others. But the Denver Nuggets' pride and grit sent the Suns home. They started strong, winning the first two games. They dropped the next two games, unable to overcome strong performances from Phoenix's stars. However, they regained momentum in the next two games and were able to win the series 4-2 to advance to the Western Conference Finals.

The Nuggets gave one of the two most successful franchises in league history, the Los Angeles Lakers, no chance in the final round of the Western Conference. Malone's secured a spot in the NBA Finals after a 4-0 sweep, two wins at home and two away. They left no doubts that they belong at this stage, and they will fight to add the first Larry O'Brien Trophy to their trophy cabinet.

Against all odds, the Heat are in the NBA Finals

Before the start of the Playoffs, few were betting on the Miami Heat. Their performance in the regular season was marked by inconsistency, registering 44 wins and 38 losses. However, they managed to qualify for the play-in, where they lost their first game to Atlanta Hawks. They faced elimination against the Chicago Bulls, where they overcame a late deficit to win and secured a spot in the playoffs.

One of the heavy favorites to replace the Warriors as NBA champions awaited the Heat in the NBA first round: the Milwaukee Bucks. However, Miami was able to knock out the Bucks and their star player, Giannis Antetokounmpo, to win the series 4-1. The Bucks' loss caused an earthquake in Milwaukee, resulting in the firing of their coach, Mike Budenholzer.

In the Eastern Conference Semifinals, they met the New York Knicks. The Knicks managed to take two games from the Heat, with stellar performances by Julius Randle, R.J. Barrett and Jalen Brunson. However, the Heat emerged victorious in the other four games of the series (4-2) and advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals.

This year, as fate would have it, the Eastern Conference Finals were a rematch of last years', albeit with a different outcome. The Heat ultimately emerged victorious, defeating the Boston Celtics 4-3. The series started in the best way for Miami, which won the first three games. When everyone thought they were practically through to the NBA Finals, the Celtics responded and managed to even the series. Boston's TD Garden was the setting for the seventh and final game, where the Heat's dominant performance clinched them a spot in the NBA Finals.

Jokić-Butler: a battle of titans

In the end, basketball is a team sport. Every point scored by each player adds up. However, in every game and every series, the eyes are always on each team's star player. In this year's NBA Finals, those leaders will be Nikola Jokić and Jimmy Butler, the former for Denver Nuggets and the latter for Miami Heat.

The Serbian center enters the NBA Finals in exceptional form. After recording eight triple-doubles in these playoffs, Jokić will be the Heat's biggest threat. He has not only excelled in the paint by grabbing rebounds and scoring points, he has shown an uncommon efficiency for a player in his size behind the three-point line. As a facilitator, Jokić is without a doubt one of the best basketball players on the planet.

Jimmy Butler, just a few months shy of his 34th birthday, is playing the best basketball of his life. He has been the maestro of a Heat team that, against all odds, has made it to the NBA Finals. Much is expected from the veteran, and he will be instrumental in the Heat's quest to win a ring.

In addition to the two stars, other players who have shined in the Playoffs will try to impact the series, like Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. for the Nuggets and Bam Adebayo and Caleb Martin for the Heat. The strategy and adjustments of the two coaches, Michael Malone and Erik Spoelstra, will also help define the series.