Heat’s Jimmy Butler, Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic headline start of NBA Finals

While “dynamic duos” and “Big 3s” have defined recent champions, the 2023 NBA Finals is set up to be a huge feat not only for one team, but between two of the top individual performers in the playoffs. There is also a performance.

denver nuggets And Miami Heat will meet in Denver in Game 1 on Thursday, backed by a pair of stars with accomplished careers and playing at the top of their game

nuggetsNikola Jokic did not win the NBA MVP award this season after holding the honor for the previous two campaigns. Instead, he’s poised for ultimate team honors as he statistically dominates in the postseason.

HeatK’s Jimmy Butler has never won an MVP award, but has shown at various points in his career that he has the determination that can carry a team through the toughest parts.

While the focus will be on the individual achievements of Jokic and Butler, they will be crucial for both teams to win the title.

“In some ways, it’s a mirror image series, not in terms of style, but teams that have probably been overlooked, underestimated, have a chip on their shoulder,” Heat said head coach Erik Spoelstra. “It looks set to be a great competition.

This number will be 1 seed from the Western Conference nuggets against no. 8 seed from the Eastern Conference Heat, Miami is second. 8 seed to reach the NBA Finals since the New York Knicks in 1999

“You get to the NBA Finals, it’s not about seeding anymore, and to people who are thinking this is going to be an easy series, I don’t even know what to say.” nuggets said head coach Michael Malone. “This is going to be the biggest challenge of our lives. It’s the NBA Finals.

Making it viable for Denver is the presence of Jokic, who appears motivated enough after losing the MVP award to Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers. Jokic has averaged a triple-double in 15 playoff games: 29.9 points, 13.3 rebounds, 10.3 assists.

He will get ample help from Jamal Murray (27.7 points per game), Michael Porter Jr. (averaging 14.6 points, 8.0 rebounds) and Aaron Gordon (13.0 ppg).

“I think the way we play, everybody can step up and everybody can be the best paymaster for a game or for a week,” said Jokic, sounding uncomfortable with the top player label. . “I make a lot of decisions with the ball in my hands, but I don’t know if I can be the best player.”

Butler has found a different gear in this run, playing a perfect mix of dirty work and glamor, leading to averages of 28.5 points, 7.0 rebounds and 5.7 assists in the playoffs. This is higher than his regular-season averages of 22.9 points, 5.9 rebounds and 5.3 assists.

Bam Adebayo averaged 16.8 points and 9.2 rebounds in the playoffs. Heat The roster also included seven undrafted players, led by Caleb Martin (14.1 ppg in the playoffs) and Gabe Vincent (13.1 pts.), who scored 29 in a Game 3 victory over the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals.

“We love being around each other; we want to see each other succeed,” Butler said. “We really enjoy when each other plays well, and we’re going to continue to do that, never get upset, and we’re going to see where we end up.”

The series wild card could result in injuries to Miami guard Tyler Herro, the team’s third-leading scorer (20.1 ppg) in the regular season. The 23-year-old sharpshooter has been ruled out after injuring his right hand in the opening game HeatFirst round series against the Milwaukee Bucks

On Wednesday, Spoelstra ruled Herro out for Game 1, but added that he is close to returning.

nuggets Playing in the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history and playing for their first championship since losing in the 1976 ABA Finals

Heat They are in the Finals for the first time since losing to the Los Angeles Lakers in 2020. Butler had a similar performance in those playoffs, which led to Miami’s sixth all-time Finals appearance. Heat Has three titles, the most recent being led by LeBron James in 2013.

– Field Level Media

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