The most anticipated series of the year kicks off tonight. The final pair – pronounced coaching teams with real leaders who are able to lead in difficult times. The main thing in this pair is that they both have something to prove. “Denver” – that you can win big wins, having “unicorn” Jokic in your lineup. “Miami” – that Pat Riley is a genius. Oh no, everyone knows that. “Hit” will prove that discipline, protection and reason are stronger than big names. But about all this – in order.
Denver Nuggets – Miami Heat
Larry O’Brien Cups: 0-3
Regular meetings: 2-0
Match schedule: 02.06; 05.06; 08.06; 10.06; 13.06; 16.06; 19.06
The teams met twice in the regular season. In both cases, success was celebrated by the winners of the Western Conference. But firstly, it was already in winter (already the beginning of summer), secondly, Jokic and the team were motivated to get the first seed of their conference, and the Serb himself – the title of MVP of the season, thirdly, Highsmith ran big minutes for the “Hit” , Orlando Robinson and Bowie (who is this?), most importantly, Jimbo has not turned on hero mode yet, and Martin and Vincent have not reached the form they are now.
It should be noted that these were fairly close matches with a difference of 4 and 5 points, respectively. And also, Miami did not include their defense (second in the regular season in terms of missed points) and at that time had considerable problems in attack – with the idea, organization of the game (maybe that’s why Vincent is now one of the team leaders?).
Denver, on the other hand, topped its season average with 50.4% field goal percentage in those two games. Consequently, this confrontation will no longer be what it looked like in winter. And the Nuggets shouldn’t be hoping for an easy ride with Coach Spo’s team.
Denver completed the Minnesota challenge with a 4-1 series score. But the defeat took place only in their first match, 109:80 in favor of the Nuggets. Further, none of the teams had even a two-digit advantage over each other. Is it not enough for both the NBA favorite and frankly the weakest team in this playoffs?
The Heat, in turn, worked their magic and passed one of the top three contenders for the title, the Milwaukee Bucks. But the team of Mike Budenholzer frankly began to crumble in the confrontation. No wonder they have now changed their coach and should think about what to do with the roster. But this does not detract from the merits of Butler (37.6 points in 5 matches of the round) and the company. They were just smarter and had fire in their eyes. Otherwise, Giannis cannot be defeated.
Here, Eric Spoelstra felt like a fish in water, playing from defense. The Heat missed Thibodeau’s team twice out of 100 and twice out of 110 points. The one with the better defense won, 4-2.
Denver, on the other hand, was supposed to face Kevin Durent’s Phoenix. And it was their first test of maturity: a coaching team with a strong selection of performers in every position playing against four NBA stars. The exhausted and broken Suns couldn’t handle the fast pace of the opposition and lost to the younger and more cohesive Nuggets 4-2.
Michael Malone’s team did not notice the Lakers, passing them in the first game 132:126 and destroying them on defense in the next three meetings. LeBron played with an injury, played a lot (almost without rest), but this team went through the Golden State and flew dry for Jokic and company. Does that speak volumes about the strength of the Nuggets? No, it speaks to their desire to go further, because James really joined the fight with the score 0-3 in favor of the opponents. Jokic, such an impression, was not excluded from this fight.
And “Miami”, meanwhile, passed the second favorite of the championship – “Boston”. They were close to a “dry” series, taking a 3-0 lead in it. They were close to victory in the sixth match of the series, but a second before the end of the fight they lost the rebound on their own shield. They got their – late. Only on the basis of seven matches of the series. But it’s better than never.
Quick line-up: Denver has all the key players in the ranks and should play. Miami can’t count on reserve player Oladipo, but are hoping Irrow will join them in Game 3 of the series.
The Heat got some deja vu when they lost Game 6 of the series to the Celtics. In 2013, the team won the NBA Finals in a similar situation and won the title in the next match. These Floridians are different: they got together, showed their character and won the next match – and reached the Final.
It is significant here that the phrase “Better late than never” is completely about Miami. Everyone is fighting there. Starting from the old Pat Riley, Spo’s coach, non-names (who can do nothing else but work hard on the floor), ending with Jimmy Butler, who at the crucial moment will simply take the ball and two minutes before the end of the fight will play 10 points behind and achieve for the team leadership in the account. With this “Hit” it is important to drag each match into a clutch.
As for Denver, if they let the thought in their heads that they’ve already made it to the Finals by beating Durent and James, then Butler will destroy them. Coach Michael Malone constantly emphasizes that one should not stop there, and the club will consider only winning the championship a success. Why is this fact important now?
The fifth and sixth defenses of the entire playoffs meet. In terms of field goal percentage, they are the second and fifth teams in the postseason. Attack? It is also equal to these teams in terms of potential. Indeed, without a strong attack, it is impossible to throw Boston 123 and 128 points in separate matches during the conference finals.
So, will the equal opponents play? Rather, they are similar in construction and coaching contribution to the success of the team. And similar in mood to win. It remains to be seen who will be more resilient in their desire to win the coveted NBA title.
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