2023 NBA Finals preview: It’s the Heat taking on the Nuggets

NBA Finals Preview
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Avid basketball fans will have a distraction in mornings over the next fortnight with the NBA Finals starting on Friday (8:30am WST) when the favoured Denver Nuggets face the Miami Heat in the best-of-seven series.

What are the NBA Finals?

The NBA Finals are the equivalent of the AFL Grand Final. The winner is crowned the champion team. But it’s slightly different in the sense that it’s a series, not a one-off game, decided by best-of-seven or first to four, thus “NBA Finals”, not “NBA Final”.

You may have heard bits about the NBA playoffs over the past six weeks, with the Nuggets and Heat the last two standing, after 16 sides qualified for the postseason following the 82-game regular season which ran from October to April.

The NBA Finals is the culmination of the season, thus it’s massive. Last year’s series averaged 12,402,000 viewers in the US.

Who is in it?

The Nuggets are into their first-ever NBA Finals but go in as the strong favourites. They are the top-seeded Western Conference team, finishing the regular season with a 53-29 record, led by their superstar Serbian center Nikola Jokic, who was this season’s MVP runner-up having won that award back-to-back in 2021 and 2022.

Jokic does it all, scoring, rebounding, assisting etc, while Nuggets guard Jamal Murray has been a three-point machine during the playoffs, after missing all of last season due to an ACL injury. Small forward Michael Porter Jr is another to keep your eye on.

The Heat have a more decorated history, as three-time NBA champions and seven-time finalists, but their run to the NBA Finals this year has been improbable. Miami finished the regular season with a 44-38 record heading into the playoffs as the Eastern Conference’s eighth seed.

Clutch Heat forward Jimmy ‘Buckets’ Butler has been incredible during the playoffs, but they’ve also got wily veterans like Kyle Lowry and Kevin Love, plus 25-year-old Bam Adebayo who’ll line up on Jokic at centre. The Heat also have the nous of long-time head coach Erik Spoelstra, who led the team to two of their three NBA championships, back in 2012 and 2013.

How’d they qualify?

Denver’s run to the NBA Finals has been all business, brushing aside the Minnesota Timberwolves 4-1, Phoenix Suns 4-2 and sweeping LeBron James’ Los Angeles Lakers 4-0. Jokic has dominated, averaging 29.9 points, 13.3 rebounds and 10.3 assists per game this postseason.

Miami shocked title favourites Milwaukee 4-1 in the first round, before toppling the New York Knicks 4-1 and the Boston Celtics 4-3. Butler has averaged 28.5 points per game with 7.0 rebounds, 5.7 assists and 2.1 steals.

The Heat actually led 3-0 against Boston, before the Celtics rallied and forced a Game 7, which Miami won on Tuesday. Denver’s four-game sweep over the Lakers, compared to Miami’s seven-game series, meant they got a whole extra week’s rest in, so that may benefit the Nuggets.

When is it?

Game 1 is at Denver’s Ball Arena from 8:30am WST Friday, followed by Game 2 at the same venue from 8am WST Monday. Game 3 is scheduled for 8:30am WST Thursday June 8 at Miami’s FTX Arena and so on. Game 7, if required, is scheduled for Monday June 19 WST.

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The games are played in the evening US time, which is friendly for WA audiences, with every tip-off
scheduled for either 8am or 8:30am WST. They tend to play every two or three days and play until either side has won four games, so they may not actually need all seven games. The Golden State Warriors won last year’s NBA Finals 4-2, so Game 7 wasn’t played.

How do I watch it?

The NBA Finals are available to be streamed live and on-demand through Kayo, Foxtel, ESPN and through NBA League Pass.

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Image Credit: Miami Heat