After a slightly longer journey than expected, with the Denver Nuggets and Miami Heat both reaching a 3 game lead in the finals of their conferences, we finally have a matchup in the NBA Finals. Regardless of the final outcome, we are about to witness a historic moment.
If Miami wins, the Heat will complete one of the most impressive runs in playoff history and become the first eighth-seeded team in the regular season to win an NBA title. On the other hand, if Denver wins, the Nuggets will secure their first franchise title, joining the San Antonio Spurs as the only teams from the former ABA to win the league.
Before the start of the series, scheduled for this Thursday at 9:30 PM, it is interesting to look at six statistics and factors that could define the 2023 NBA Finals and determine the next champion.
Miami is about to make their seventh appearance in the finals since 2006, the most appearances in that period in the NBA (with the Golden State Warriors coming in second with six). Five of Miami’s key players in the playoffs – Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, Kyle Lowry, Kevin Love, and Duncan Robinson – have previous finals experience. However, despite this experience, it is the Nuggets, who will be competing in their first final, who enter the series as the heavy favorites.
Based on the bookmakers’ odds, the Denver Nuggets are considered the third-largest favorite in the finals in the last 20 years. The Miami Heat currently have similar odds to what they had in the 2020 finals when they lost the championship in the Orlando bubble to LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers.
The biggest favorites in the last two decades also faced LeBron James: the 2018 Warriors with Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry, and the Spurs who faced James in his first trip to the finals in 2007. Both series ended with wins for the favorites.
The bookmakers seem to be more influenced by the consistency demonstrated by the Denver Nuggets throughout the season than the surprising turnarounds of the Miami Heat in the playoffs. The Nuggets had the sixth-best point differential in the league during the regular season, while the Heat fell behind their opponents in that aspect. On paper, the matchup doesn’t seem very balanced. However, Jimmy Butler doesn’t play on paper – just ask the Milwaukee Bucks, New York Knicks, and Boston Celtics.
The Miami Heat has shown their ability to exceed expectations and challenge teams considered favorites. The leadership and inspiring performance of Jimmy Butler have been key factors in this journey. Therefore, despite appearing as an uneven matchup on paper, the Miami Heat certainly cannot be underestimated and is determined to defy the odds and seek victory in the finals.
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