A song of ice and fire: Nuggets, Heat clash for NBA throne

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(CNN Philippines) — The 2023 NBA Finals stage is set.

The Denver Nuggets and Miami Heat square off in a best-of-seven championship series.

The two teams took different paths to get to this point.

The top West seed Nuggets cruised past the Minnesota Timberwolves, Phoenix Suns, and Los Angeles Lakers to secure the first berth.

Meanwhile, the Heat had to play and survive in two Play-in tournament games just to enter the playoffs. Miami toppled the Milwaukee Bucks, New York Knicks, and Boston Celtics to advance to the finals.

Denver has beaten the Heat in their last six meetings, including twice during the regular season.

The Nuggets haven’t faced any real threat yet in this edition of the playoffs. They are 12-3 in this postseason, winning their last six outings.

On the other hand, Miami is 12-6 and coming off a grueling seven-game affair versus the Celtics.

What makes this year's finals matchup compelling is the significance of hoisting the Larry O'Brien Trophy.

If Denver wins, it would be their first ever franchise title in history.

If Miami wins, it would become the lowest seed to win a championship.

Two-time league Most Valuable Player Nikola Jokic is expected to do his usual thing for the Nuggets in the finals, tallying triple-doubles left and right. He will be complemented by the fiery shooting of Jamal Murray, the length and athleticism of Michael Porter Jr. and Aaron Gordon, the steady presence of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Bruce Brown Jr., Jeff Green, and Reggie Jackson.

Against all odds, don't count out the gritty Heat squad. They have three players who won championships — Udonis Haslem with Miami, Kevin Love with the Cleveland Cavaliers, and Kyle Lowry with the Toronto Raptors.

Jimmy Butler and Bam Abedayo will be the anchors for Miami. When the game is on the line, these two should be involved in the play one way or another.

Having seven undrafted players play this postseason did more positive things than negative for the Heat. The injury of Tyler Herro opened the door for the other guys like Caleb Martin, Max Strus, and Gabe Vincent to step up and contribute.

Mike Malone will try to capture his first NBA title, and if Denver comes out on top, he’ll become the 36th coach in league history to win a championship.

Erik Spoelstra is eyeing to win his third title as a head coach. If the Heat prevail, the Filipino American tactician joins Phil Jackson, Red Auerbach, Pat Riley, John Kundla, Gregg Popovich, and Steve Kerr as three-time champion coaches.

The 2023 NBA Finals begins on June 2 (Philippine time) at the Ball Arena in Denver, Colorado, USA.