The Miami Heat have gone on a Cinderella-esque run that is typically only seen in the NCAA tournament. On top of being the first play-in team to ever win an NBA playoff series, they also were the second 8th seed of all time to make the NBA Finals. They now find themselves facing off against a very tough opponent in the top-seeded Denver Nuggets.
This is arguably the most difficult series the Heat have found themselves in yet, however, they have already proven that they belong in the Finals and are capable of beating the Nuggets on the road. With there still being a lot of basketball left to be played before the series is concluded, the question has been raised on if the Heat has what it takes to become the first 8th seed of all time to win an NBA Finals.
In game one, the Heat would take a rough 93-104 loss. This was the first time in their playoff run this season that they did not win the first game of the series. This was a very concerning sign for Miami as they do not hold the home-court advantage, and many believed that they would not stand a chance against the Nuggets.
Miami greatly struggled to slow down Nikola Jokic who put up a triple-double in his NBA finals debut. The Joker would finish the game with a team-high 27 points and 14 assists. Along with this, he would also pull in 10 rebounds.
On the offensive end, a majority of the Heat players struggled on the offensive end. Jimmy Butler, who the Heat have relied on to carry their offense through the playoffs, finished the game with only 13 points. Along with this, their role players had an awful shooting night as well. Caleb Martin, Max Strus, and Duncan Robinson combined for 2/23 from the field and 2/16 from three.
In game two, the Heat would claw back from a 15-point deficit in the fourth quarter to win by a final score of 111-108. Miami was forced to go on an incredible run in the final minutes of the game to win and outscored the Nuggets 17-5 in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter.
This would be the first time in the postseason that the Nuggets lost a game after holding a double-digit lead, and the only game they had lost at home through the entirety of the postseason. The Heat proved that they were more than capable of holding their own in this series, and with games three and four set to take place in Miami, they are in an incredible spot to take a commanding series lead before heading back to Denver.
There are a few key things the Heat can do to close out this series and win their first title since 2013.
First, the Heat must find a way to defend their home court. They did the impossible and beat the Nuggets in Denver. They now hold home-court advantage and if Miami can defend their home court, they will win the series in six games.
Second, the Heat’s role players must play consistently. They are heavily reliant on under-the-radar players like Max Strus and Caleb Martin to be some of the team’s most impactful players. If their shots are not falling, Miami has a very slim chance of being able to take the series.
Finally, Miami needs to slow down Nikola Jokic. Jokic has been dominant in both of the opening games of the series. While the Heat was able to win game two despite Jokic’s 40-point outburst, this is not a trend that will likely continue. This responsibility will fall on the shoulders of Adebayo, and while no player has been able to stop Jokic this season if Adebayo can just slow him down, the Heat will easily win the series.
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