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MANILA, Philippines – Polar opposites collide.
Coming off contrasting series wins in their respective conference finals matchups, the Denver Nuggets and the Miami Heat brace for an all-out war in Game 1 of the 2023 NBA Finals on Thursday, June 1 (Friday, June 2, Manila time) at the Ball Arena in Denver.
The Nuggets, the top-ranked team in the West, swept the Los Angeles Lakers in four games to reach the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history, while the Heat, the eighth-seeded team in the East, outgunned the Boston Celtics in a grueling seven-game series to make a return trip to the league’s biggest stage after last entering it in 2020.
As the Nuggets look to draw first blood in this best-of-seven series, count on two-time league MVP Nikola Jokic to show the way and impose his will inside the paint against the smaller Heat frontline.
The 6-foot-11 Jokic has been nearly unstoppable this postseason, averaging a triple-double of 29.9 points on 53.8% shooting, 13.3 rebounds, and 10.3 assists for the Nuggets.
Also look for high-scoring guard Jamal Murray, who is averaging 27.7 points in this year’s playoffs, to backstop Jokic and create problems for Miami’s defense as Denver also tries to protect its home-court advantage.
On the other side, all eyes will be on superstar forward Jimmy Butler, who has been carrying the Heat on his shoulders all throughout the postseason with averages of 28.5 points on 48.3% shooting, 7.0 rebounds, and 5.7 assists.
Aside from Butler, expect Heat big man Bam Adebayo to stand his ground down low against Jokic and role players such as Caleb Martin and Gabe Vincent to rise to the occasion and provide much-needed firepower on offense.
Martin was a revelation for Miami in its Eastern Conference Finals clash with Boston, averaging 19.3 points on 48.9% clip from three-point land, including a 26-point explosion in the series-clincher.
Will the heavily favored Nuggets continue their dominance or will the Finals “underdogs” Heat keep their Cinderella run going?
Game time is 8:30 am.
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