The Miami Heat enter the 2023 NBA Finals in familiar territory, labeled the underdogs against the Denver Nuggets.
The Nuggets are led by two-time league MVP Nikola Jokic, who has anchored the franchise’s impressive push toward a championship. Ahead of Game 1 on Thursday night, Heat star forward Jimmy Butler underlined the importance of slowing down Jokic.
“Guarding him as a team with all five guys,” Butler said via ESPN. “He does everything so well, and we’re going to have to be in the gaps, we’re going to have to gang rebound. We can’t have defensive lapses. We’re just going to have to get after it. I think at the end of the day, he’s a major key, as DJ Khaled would say, and we’re going to have to lock in.”
The Nuggets have proven to be much more than just Jokic’s stellar play that has led them to this point. However, he’s undoubtedly been the engine that guides them forward offensively.
Jokic is averaging a triple-double in the playoffs behind 29.9 points, 13.3 rebounds, and 10.3 assists while shooting 53.8 percent from the floor and 47.4 percent from beyond the arc. He’s notched eight triple-doubles in 15 games in this year’s playoffs.
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If the Heat hope to have any chance of getting past the Nuggets, it will have to start with slowing down Jokic. He’s the focal point of Denver’s high-octane offense.
Miami’s collective approach on both ends of the floor, led by Butler, will dictate how the NBA Finals will unfold.
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