On a silver platter (young world newspaper)

David Butler II/USA TODAY Network/imago

Leader of the Nameless: Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler (left, Boston, 5/29/2023)

In the end it was a clear affair. Last Monday, the Miami Heat won 103-84 against the Boston Celtics in the seventh and decisive game of the final series in the Eastern Conference. The Heat put the overall result 4:3 in their favor. Now the Denver Nuggets are waiting for the team around superstar Jimmy Butler in the championship final.

Denver is the clear favorite in the “Best-of-Seven” series, the first game will take place next Thursday (local time) in their own hall. Because the Nuggets could watch the attrition between the Heat and the Celtics in peace, after all, they had clearly and early defeated the Los Angeles Lakers 4-0 in the final of the Western Conference.

However, the role of the underdog seems to inspire the opponent from the US state of Florida. Miami had only qualified for the play-offs via the additional round and reached them as the last-placed team in the East. The Heat are only the second team in NBA history to actually advance to the finals despite this unfavorable starting position. The New York Knicks did this for the first time in 1999. According to basketball expert Zach Lowe, “there was nothing to suggest there was a big team hiding in the heat,” as he recently said on his podcast. Miami proved once again that they usually play better in the playoffs than in the regular season.

Already at the last final participation in 2020, the three-time champion did not go into the final round as a favorite. Exceptional coach Erik Spoelstra and his team reached the finals of the Eastern Conference last season, but were beaten by the Boston Celtics in seven games. However, in this year’s revenge, Miami prevailed.

And this despite the fact that the Celtics were considered to be the much more talented team. Spoelstra has once again managed to form a team without many big names – Butler is the exception and again showed sensational performances during the play-offs – into a unit: Every player in the Heat knows what he has to do on the floor and fulfills its role almost perfectly. Of course, the fact that Miami sometimes outperforms in terms of hit rate also helps.

Add to that Spoelstra’s ability to take players to their peak and beyond. The best example of this is probably Caleb Martin. The 27-year-old forward was not selected by any team in the 2019 NBA draft, which recruits the best young players, then joined the Charlotte Hornets, who eventually released him in 2021. Now Martin is convincing in the jersey of the Heat on the biggest possible basketball stage and was one of the best players in the series against the Celtics – with 26 points he was the second best scorer on the field seven after Butler in the decisive game.

But is that enough to survive against what is perhaps the best basketball player in the world at the moment? “Nikola Jokic is one of the best offensive players of all time,” said expert Bill Simmons recently in his podcast. The 28-year-old Serb has played in the previous play-offs as if from another planet. He regularly puts on so-called triple doubles, i.e. two-digit values ​​in the categories points, rebounds and assists.

With his game intelligence and his outstanding skills as a passer, Jokic regularly serves his teammates good throws as if on a silver platter. With Jamal Murray and Aaron Gordon, Jokic also has two congenial partners. Even LeBron James was full of praise after his Lakers’ elimination against the Nuggets, calling Denver the best opponent he’d faced in the era with costar Anthony Davis.

However, the lack of experience could turn out to be a shortcoming of the Nuggets – Denver is in the final for the first time in its NBA history. If Jokic and Co. maintain the previous level, the title should probably not be taken away from them.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *