The NBA Finals are now set. After a thrilling Eastern Conference Finals, it’s the Miami Heat advancing after they thoroughly dominated Game 7 against the Celtics, winning 103-84. It was a shocking end to one of the best Conference Finals series in recent memory. Jayson Tatum hurt his ankle early in the game, and the Celtics were never able to sustain any sort of offensive identity.
The Miami Heat become just the 2nd team in NBA history to make the NBA Finals as the 8th seed. They are matched up against the 1st seed Denver Nuggets. The Nuggets haven’t played since May 22nd, when they finished off their sweep of the Lakers. On paper, this seems like a giant mismatch for the Heat. Not only are they coming into this series with significantly less rest, the Nuggets have homecourt advantage in this series. Game 1 is Thursday night in Denver, with tip-off scheduled for approximately 8:30pm EST.
It shouldn’t be surprising that the Heat are significant underdogs in this series, just as they’ve been in every series they’ve played in so far this postseason. However, this may be the toughest test for them yet. Despite beating the top seeded team in the playoffs, the Nuggets have the added advantage of all that extra rest. Also, while the Heat did beat the Bucks in 5 games, Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo got hurt in Game 1 of the series. The Heat were able to take full advantage of that situation, but they can’t expect that to happen again in this series. Tyler Herro may come back at some point in the Finals from a broken hand, which should help. The Heat will need all the offensive output they can get in this series. No one has shown an ability to consistently slow the Nuggets down, and especially not at home.
The Heat will have to play a near perfect series to capture the title, but they’ve shown a tenacity and ability to adapt throughout the playoffs. They won’t go down quietly. They have a chance to pull off one of the greatest, and unlikeliest, title runs in NBA history. Game 1 can’t come soon enough.