With each team seeking to cap off their run with a championship, the Miami Heat and Denver Nuggets are set to face off in the NBA Finals. Ahead of Thursday night’s Game 1, the All U Can Heat staff came together to talk about the most interesting angles and make their predictions for who wins the series, Finals MVP and more.
In 140 characters, what is the most interesting storyline going into these Finals?
Wes Goldberg: The duel of two underappreciated superstars, each one pining for their first ring. After two years of winning MVPs in seasons otherwise lost due to injured teammates, Nikola Jokic finally has his chance to buoy his resume with a championship. Meanwhile, Butler has now climbed as close to the mountain top as possible for a third time. He desperately wants to get there.
Noah Decker: An No. 8 seed vs a No. 1 seed. The Heat took a tough road to get to the Finals, defeating the top-seeded Bucks, the Knicks, and the second-seeded Celtics. Meanwhile, the Nuggets have taken down some of the top players in the league, such as Kevin Durant, Devin Booker, and LeBron James. Both are very good teams, yet hardly anyone expected either team to make it to the Finals.
Azam Masood: Can the Heat’s unprecedented run generate even more magic and stop the most singularly unstoppable offensive force the league has seen in some time? The Heat have already throttled the two best teams in the NBA record-wise, but Jokic and the Nuggets possess a frightening composure that Milwaukee and Boston did not.
Stephanie Meadows: Both the eighth-seeded Miami Heat and Florida Panthers making it to the finals in their respective sports. There has never been a NBA and NHL title won at the same time, in the same market. This year, the Heat and Panthers have already made history, but what’s exciting is that they’re doing it together.
There’s been a lot of talk about how the Heat can slow down Nikola Jokic. But what’s the biggest question the Nuggets have to answer?
Wes: Michael Malone is a good coach, but Erik Spoelstra is better. Three teams have tried and failed to limit Malone’s Nuggets, but you know Spoelstra will be deep in his bag this series. Can Malone keep up and anticipate what Spo might throw at him? Before Nuggets fans roll their eyes, remember that these Heat already dispatched a No. 1 seed in the first round, then the No. 2 seed in the East finals. In other words, they have overcome the talent gap before.
Noah: What is the answer for Miami’s zone defense? The Heat ran the zone to near perfection in the playoffs, especially in the Celtics series. Miami held the Celtics to just 19 points in 34 possessions with their zone in Game 7. They will almost certainly go back to that against the Nuggets. The answer probably starts with Jokic picking apart the defense with his passing, but there is certainly much more that the Nuggets will need to think about in order to score efficiently.
Azam: Will the Nuggets be able to make Jimmy Butler uncomfortable? The Celtics managed to eventually wear down Butler and throw enough length at him that he, for the first time in a long time, occasionally appeared outright timid and indecisive with the ball in his hands. Some of that may be tied to a lingering ankle issue, but Butler did not attack mismatches with the same verve as he did in the beginning of the Conference Finals. Denver has some individually skilled defenders, but Jokic, for all his gifts, is not a Robert Williams or a Brook Lopez as a last line of defense, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was already once on the receiving end of many Jimmy Buckets in the 2020 Finals.
Stephanie: Is the amount of rest and home court advantage for the Nuggets an edge for the Heat Thursday marks 10 days since the Nuggets have played basketball. Nuggets coach Michael Malone doesn’t think this amount of rest is an advantage for his team, telling reporters his biggest concern is the rhythm but more importantly conditioning after being off for so long. Teams with both home-court advantage and a rest edge of at least five days are 8-1 in the Finals, per ESPN’s research.
Max Marshall: Nikola Jokic vs Bam Adebayo. Is there a world were Bam hold his own against Jokic? Would definitely be interesting if Bam can be the Jokic” stopper.”
The Heat have not won in Denver since the 2015-16 season. Are you concerned about the altitude?
Wes: Yeah. If players say it’s real, it’s real.
Azam: No. Not since Spoelstra gave this answer about the altitude
Stephanie: No, I’m not concerned. As Spoelstra and all the guys on the Heat say, I don’t give a crap about what people are saying. There will always be obstacles, but the Heat have gotten this far in large part due to their mental toughness.
Who will be the first player to reach 50 points in this series?
When will Tyler Herro make his NBA Finals debut?
Wes: Game 4
Noah: Game 3
Azam: Game 3
Stephanie: Game 3 or 4.
When will the road team win for the first time in this series?
Wes: Game 2
Noah: Game 1
Azam: Game 2
Stephanie: Game 1
Who wins the series and in how many games?
Wes: Heat in 7
Noah: Heat in 6
Azam: Denver in 6
Stephanie: Heat in 7
Who wins the Finals MVP?