nuggets vs heat

Larry O’Brien’s Summer Plans…Mountains or Beach?

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 by Rockin’ Reese 

It’s that time of the year, again. The NBA Finals are back. One team is 4 wins away from the most amazing completion of an 8-month journey. One team is 4 losses away from the most heartbreaking end of that same journey. However, a question needs to be asked. Will the Larry O’Brien Trophy be among the mountains of Denver or among the beaches of Miami?

The Denver Nuggets have been a basketball franchise, since 1967 (when they were called the Denver Rockets in the ABA). When they joined the NBA in 1976, they had seen many trips to the playoffs, but had very little to show for it.

Their most memorable moment, at the time, was when they defeated the Seattle Supersonics (who had the NBA’s best record in 1993-94) in the western conference quarter-finals & became the first NBA team to be an 8th seed to eliminate a #1 seed.

However, this season, they would finally arrive to the one place they haven’t gone to. In the western conference finals, they would sweep their playoff nemesis, the Los Angeles Lakers (who had been 7-0 in the playoffs against them, including 3-0 in the WCF) and earn their way to the NBA Finals.

nba finals

The leader of the Nuggets has been (center) Nikola Jokić, who was the 2020-21 & 2021-22 NBA MVP and this season’s MVP of the WCF. After he nearly averaged a triple-double in the regular season (24.5 points, 11.8 rebounds, & 9.8 assists per game), Jokić  has been averaging a triple-double in the playoffs (29.9 points, 13.3 rebounds, 10.3 assists per game).

Right behind “Joker” has been (guard) Jamal Murray, who has been averaging 27.7 points, 5.5 rebounds, & 6.1 assists per game. The Nuggets have been getting key offensive & defensive contributions from (guard) Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and (forwards) Michael Porter Jr. & Aaron Gordon, en route to their NBA Finals debut. 

The Miami Heat have been in the NBA, since 1988. In their first 7 seasons, they only made the playoffs twice, losing in the eastern conference quarter-finals, both times. With the arrival of (former Lakers & New York Knicks head coach) Pat Riley, the Heat’s fortune would slowly but surely turn around.

In 1996-97, they would win their first playoff series victories by defeating the Orlando Magic & Knicks. In 2005-06, thanks to a superhuman effort by Dwyane Wade, the Heat would become NBA Champions for the 1st time in franchise history.

With the arrival of LeBron James & Chris Bosh in 2010-11, the Heat would advance to the NBA Finals for 4 consecutive seasons, winning in 2011-12 & 2012-13. In 2019-20, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Heat would lose to the Lakers (who now had LeBron).

This season, the Heat earned their 7th trip to the NBA Finals, after nearly blowing a 3-0 lead against the Boston Celtics in the eastern conference finals. Jimmy Butler (the MVP of the ECF) improved his regular season production (22.9 points, 5.9 rebounds, 5.3 assists per game) in the playoffs (28.5 points, 7 rebounds, 5.7 assists per game). The Heat have also received contributions from Bam Adebayo, Duncan Robinson, Caleb Martin, & Gabe Vincent.

The Nuggets have had the Heat’s number, this season. On Dec. 30, 2022, they were victorious at home by 5 points. On Feb. 13th, they went to Miami & won by 4 points. Besides the wins, this season, the Nuggets have had the Heat’s number, in recent years. They haven’t lost a game in Denver to the Heat, since Nov. 30, 2016, & haven’t lost in Miami, since a double overtime game on Mar. 19, 2018.

In general, the last time the Nuggets lost to the Heat was in the bubble, back on Aug. 1, 2020. All signs ae pointing to the Nuggets winning the Larry O’Brien Trophy & bringing it to the Rocky Mountains. However, the Heat have defied the odds, by becoming the first play-in tournament team to advance to the NBA Finals.

If they can earn 4 more wins, the Heat will have the O’Brien Trophy as part of parties along Miami’s greatest beaches (and in their greatest nightclubs). Ultimately, it’s up to the players to determine where Larry spends summer.

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