Nuggets in six: Analysis and prediction of NBA Finals 2023
By Azizi Christiani
The NBA Finals match-up between the Denver Nuggets and the Miami Heat may not be the one many expected, but it promises to be an intriguing clash of contrasting styles, histories and individual stars.
Both teams had to overcome formidable challenges in their playoff journeys, showcasing their shot-making abilities, defensive prowess and championship-worthy courage.
In this article, we will analyse key factors and players, address important questions, and provide predictions on the outcome of the series.
Nuggets’ road to the Finals
The Denver Nuggets faced a tough road to the Finals, overcoming elite opponents like Kevin Durant, Devin Booker, LeBron James and Anthony Davis in their playoff run.
Led by their superstar center Nikola Jokic, the Nuggets have demonstrated resilience and the ability to rise to the occasion.
Jokic’s triple-double threat will put pressure on the Heat’s defense, raising questions about whether Bam Adebayo can contain him.
Additionally, the Nuggets’ shooting efficiency throughout the playoffs has been exceptional, which will test Miami’s smart defense.
Heat’s path to the Finals
The Miami Heat, starting from the Play-In Tournament, defied expectations by eliminating strong teams such as the Bucks and Celtics.
Their success can be attributed, in part, to a group of undrafted players, including Gabe Vincent, Duncan Robinson, and Max Strus, who have stepped up and outplayed more decorated opponents.
While they are no longer underdogs in the league, the NBA Finals will present a new level of pressure for these players.
Miami would hope that their undrafted players will maintain their hunger, make momentum-changing plays, and embrace the challenge of the biggest stage in basketball.
Nikola Jokic vs Bam Adebayo
Throughout their careers, Adebayo and Jokic have faced each other in 12 games. Adebayo has averaged 16.2 points, 8.3 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game against Jokic.
These numbers suggest that Adebayo has been a consistent contributor when matched up against Jokic.
On the other hand, Jokic has averaged 22.2 points, 11.6 rebounds and 6.8 assists per game in those match-ups.
These statistics demonstrate Jokic’s ability to produce at a higher level in terms of scoring, rebounding, and playmaking when facing Adebayo. It’s worth noting that Jokic’s averages against Adebayo indicate a slightly stronger performance overall.
Aaron Gordon vs. Jimmy Butler
Aaron Gordon is likely to be assigned the task of guarding Jimmy Butler.
Despite the potential difficulties posed by Butler’s strength and quickness, Gordon’s defensive skills and size make him a suitable choice for this match-up.
Butler’s limited three-point shooting may work in Gordon’s favour, but his mid-range game and relentlessness will still present challenges.
Trash-talking should be avoided, as advised by the Boston Celtics’ Grant Williams.
Caleb Martin had an impressive playoff series against the Celtics, averaging 19.3 points and 6.4 rebounds per game. These numbers indicate that he played a crucial role in his team’s success during that series.
Martin displayed remarkable shooting efficiency, with a field goal percentage of 60.2% and a three-point percentage of 48.9% against the Celtics, showing his ability to convert his scoring opportunities effectively and efficiently.
In the series clincher against the Celtics (Game 7), Martin delivered an exceptional performance, scoring 26 points and grabbing 10 rebounds.
Shooting 11 of 16 from the field in that game showcased his potential to play at a high level in crucial moments.
Jamal Murray has been on a scoring tear throughout the playoffs, showcasing his versatility and ability to score from various spots on the floor.
Comfortable both on and off the ball, Murray’s chemistry with Jokic has been a key factor for the Nuggets. If the Heat cannot contain Murray, his scoring prowess could prove troublesome for Miami’s defense.
Erik Spoelstra, Heat Head Coach
The impact of a coach in the NBA Finals is often debated, but Erik Spoelstra’s reputation as a top-tier coach cannot be denied, with a record of seven Eastern Conference titles and NBA Finals appearances, including three NBA championships (two as Head Coach).
Known for motivating and holding players accountable, Spoelstra has shown a willingness to make line-up changes and quick adjustments. His ability to put the Heat in a winning position could be instrumental in the outcome of the series.
Statistics to note
The Nuggets have displayed an incredibly efficient offense throughout the playoffs, scoring 119.7 points per 100 possessions, the most efficient offense through three rounds in the last six years.
Their shooting percentages and low turnover rate highlight their offensive prowess. On the defensive end, the Heat rank sixth, allowing 111.5 points per 100 possessions, and Jimmy Butler leads the playoffs in steals.
Though my predictions for both conference finals were off, it’s highly unlikely to be off for this series.
Based on the remarkable performances of Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets’ overall efficiency, it appears destined for Denver to capture their first championship in franchise history.
While “Playoff Jimmy Butler” has been impressive, the final chapter of the 2023 NBA Finals seems to favour the Nuggets.
Therefore, the prediction is Nuggets in six.