Jun 1, 2023 - Sports

Heat trying to deep fry the Nuggets in the NBA Finals

Illustration of a basketball alternating between being coated in gold or bursting into flames.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

All our brujería paid off — the Heat are in the NBA Finals. Game 1 against the Denver Nuggets tips off tonight at 8:30pm.

Why it matters: Our city would go crazy if the Heat win their fourth championship, especially considering the uphill path they've taken during this playoff run.

Threat level: Miami is a big underdog against the Nuggets, a team the Heat last beat in 2020.

  • Denver's two-time MVP Nikola "The Joker" Jokić is going to be the most hated man in Miami by the end of the series, because no team has found a way to defend his combination of size, strength and court vision. He's averaging a triple-double this postseason at nearly 30 points per game.
  • Jamal Murray is a top sidekick, averaging 28 points per game on 40% shooting from three-point range over the playoffs.

The intrigue: The Heat already have bad blood with Jokić, who sparked a scuffle when he injured then-Miami forward Markief Morris with a blindside shove during a game in 2021. (Morris missed 58 games after suffering whiplash from the hit).

Yes, but: Miami has the NBA's best coach in Erik Spoelstra and one of the league's top playoff performers in Jimmy Butler, who has outplayed opposing stars so far this postseason.

  • Miami's potentially getting Tyler Herro back from a hand injury as early as Game 3, though in his absence, Caleb Martin has become one of the team's most valuable players.

If you go: The Heat are hosting watch parties at the Kaseya Center for Games 1 and 2, which will be played in Denver. Tickets are $10.

For a local look at this matchup, we asked Axios Denver's Ross Terrell to give us the low-down on the Nuggets.

🏔 Beware the altitude: Denver is the Mile High City, while Miami is essentially at sea level. The Nuggets haven't lost at home this postseason — going 8-0 through the first three rounds — and only lost seven times at home during the regular season.

🏆 History chase: The Nuggets are also hoping to make history. This is their first-ever NBA Finals and a win would immediately make this year's squad the best team in franchise history.

💰 Pro tip: If you want to travel to Denver and not spend a gold nugget on tickets, here are five places to watch the games.

  • The average price for tickets to a Finals game at Ball Arena is $4,133, according to Forbes, which says this year's tickets are set to be the most expensive in history.

The bottom line: Nuggets in 6.

  • We're the new kids on the block. But we're planning on staying here for a good time — and a long time.

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