Heat, Nuggets Reach NBA Finals

NBA Finals
General view during the national anthem before game six between the Miami Heat and the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals for the 2023 NBA playoffs at Kaseya Center. | Image by Sam Navarro, USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Nuggets and the Miami Heat have advanced to the 2023 NBA Finals.

The two teams will face off in a best-of-seven series, beginning Thursday night in Denver.

The Nuggets earned the number one seed in the Western Conference for the first time since joining the NBA with a 53-29 record. They eliminated the Minnesota Timberwolves and Phoenix Suns before sweeping the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Finals to earn their first NBA Finals appearance in franchise history.

“I think it starts with a belief in themselves, but probably more importantly in the collective, the man next to them,” Denver Coach Michael Malone told the media as the series concluded last week. “I’ve seen that belief all year long. We know that [in the] middle of December, we ascended to first place in the Western Conference, and through the ups and downs, we never lost first place.”

“To beat this team in the Western Conference Finals and to get the first sweep in franchise history, to get the first Western Conference championship in franchise history, means a lot,” Malone continued. “But I speak for 17 players in that locker room and the entire front office: we are not satisfied.”

Meanwhile, Miami became the first play-in team ever to win an NBA playoff series and will be playing in the NBA Finals as a number eight seed. The 1998-99 New York Knicks are the only other eight-seed to make it to the NBA Finals, and they did it before the NBA changed to a best-of-seven early-round format.

The Heat led the series against the defending Eastern Conference champion Boston Celtics 3-0 after three games but allowed Boston to win the next three, including narrowly avoiding elimination on a Derrick White tip-in as time expired in Game 6 on Saturday, to force the series back to Boston for Game 7.

Miami responded by blowing the Celtics out on their home court with a 103-84 victory.

“We never thought it’d be easy going through the playoffs [and] going through the regular season,” center Bam Adebayo told reporters after the game. “Nobody let go of the rope…the biggest thing for us is just to keep going.”

Miami is in the NBA Finals for the seventh time and has won three NBA titles since 2006. It is also the 19th trip to the finals for Heat executive Pat Riley as an executive, coach, and player.

Game 1 of the NBA Finals will be played at 7:30 p.m. CT on Thursday in Denver.

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