The Miami Heat pulled off an incredible playoff run to reach the NBA Finals. Despite losing two of their key rotation players to injuries, the Heat became the second eighth-seed in NBA history to make an NBA Finals appearance. They will face the Denver Nuggets, one of the best teams in the NBA this season.
Nikola Jokic is perhaps the biggest offensive threat the Heat have faced so far. There is simply nothing he can’t do. He is an incredible passer, he scores with ease, he can punish you with offensive rebounds, and he has shot the ball extremely well in these playoffs.
The Nuggets have a lot of offensive firepower, probably enough to outmatch Miami. But the Heat are the better defensive team. Plus, they have one key thing that the Nuggets don’t: experience.
Out of all the players on the Nuggets, two players have reached the NBA finals: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Jeff Green. Both reached the Finals on teams led by LeBron James; Caldwell-Pope was actually on the Lakers team that defeated the Heat in the Bubble in 2020.
The Heat have much more experience. It starts all the way at the top with Pat Riley, who has now been a part of 25% of all Finals in NBA history. Then you have Erik Spoelstra, coaching his sixth Finals, including four during the Big Three era.
The core of this Heat team reached the NBA Finals in 2020. At the time, they were led by Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, and Tyler Herro. There are a couple of other players from that team still on the roster.
Then you have players like Kyle Lowry and Kevin Love. Both won championships as All-Stars on different teams. Their experience will play a key role in the upcoming series. And, of course, there is Udonis Haslem, who has been through it all with the Heat. He was a key role player for all three championship teams.
History says that having Finals experience gives you an advantage. Specifically, it points to losing first before you win. If you look at the list of NBA champions, many of them needed to lose first in the Finals before they could come back and win it all the next season.
In recent history, Dirk Nowitzki lost against the Heat in 2006 before he could get his revenge in 2011. LeBron James had two lose twice in the Finals before he could lead the Miami Heat and Cleveland Cavaliers to NBA championships. The Los Angeles Lakers needed to lose to the Boston Celtics in 2008 before winning back-to-back titles the following years. This is a common theme in NBA history. If one team has never been to the Finals and the other team has recently lost, the team with the experience usually has the advantage.
Butler and company lost in 2020. This is their chance to show what they have learned and what they are now capable of. As an added boost, some of the players might still be thinking about the Jokic incident that affected them last season. It might not be as big of a deal now, but it adds an extra chip on Miami’s shoulder.
With an experienced team like the Heat, some small motivation is all they need to bring the energy in a series. The Heat are going to give this one their best effort. If they execute well enough, they might just come away with some new hardware.