TrueHoop NBA Finals preview
Jokić, altitude, and fatigue should be the difference
BY DAVID THORPE
Only Dade County residents and the Heat organization were happier than the Nuggets players when Miami stormed into Boston and crushed the Celtics. It meant home-court advantage and resting at home instead of flying the following day. It meant just one big wing and an undersized center instead of two All-NBA wings and two big men inside to bang with Nikola Jokić. And it meant a matchup with a smaller team, an eight-seed who has lost all six games against Jokić the past three years. There’s no other way to see it: Denver should have been rooting for Miami.
But, as a Floridian, it reminds me of the pics we see when a huge python kills and eats an alligator, then dies from the fight after all.
Boston had more talent, more wins, and more history. But Miami knows exactly who they are and they specialize in finding ways to chop down giants. And their leaders, Pat Riley and head coach Erik Spoelstra, are now in their seventh Finals matchup in 18 seasons. The Nuggets have cruised since April—can they now wipe out a team that nearly failed to make it to the first round?
Yes, but it will be their toughest test. In fact, had the Heat been able to close out the Celtics in Games 4, 5, or 6, I’d have stuck with my prediction of a week ago, when I picked the Heat. Instead, a more-fatigued Heat team has to get ready in just two days to play the West’s top team. In a close-fought series, where the Heat are coming in missing two starters, I think that tips the scales Denver’s way in a seven-game classic Finals.
If the Heat are going to prove me wrong, they’d better win Thursday night.