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The Celtics fall short… Again

We’re a game into the 2022-23 NBA Finals and the Denver Nuggets are three wins away from a championship. However, we know better than to rule out the Miami Heat.

The Celtics Didn’t Make History

It looked as though the Boston Celtics might become the first team in NBA history to come back from 3-0 down to win a playoff series. They entered Game 7 as massive $1.30 and -7.5 favourites to beat the Miami Heat and book their place in the NBA Finals.

After living and dying by the three for much of the playoffs, the three-point shot killed them.

Boston scored only 82 points in the decider. Making just nine of their 42 shots from beyond the arc, the Celtics shot themselves to a painful death as the Heat responded by making 12 of their 24 attempts on their way to 103 points.

Jayson Tatum scored 51 points the last time Boston faced a Game 7. He finished with only 14 points on 5-13 shooting in this one. Jaylen Brown’s 19 points on 8-23 shooting fired up the trade machines shortly after the final buzzer.

Heavy favourites.

History at their fingertips.

Boston buckled under the pressure.

Meanwhile, the Denver Nuggets sat and waited. Resting. Ready for a Heat team that once again looks like they may fall short at the final hurdle.

Nuggets Take A 1-0 Lead

History was always on Denver’s side heading into Game 1.

“When teams with seven days rest have played at home in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, they’re 8-1 (.889).” – NBA Finals Preview

While the final 104-93 scoreline looks relatively close, the Nuggets did it fairly easily.

Nikola Jokic finished up with a history-making 27, 10 and 14 triple-double – his 9th throughout the NBA playoffs. Jason Kidd is the only other player to average a triple-double throughout the playoffs (min. 5 games) back in 2007. The real MVP doesn’t have a night off and is the key to Denver’s success.

Meanwhile, Bam Adebayo needed to put up a career-high 25 shots for his 26 points. Max Strus (0-9) and Duncan Robinson (1-5) combined to shoot 1-14 from deep after proving pivotal in the Celtics series. For better or worse, Caleb Martin was always going to be a key figure in this series but scored only three points on 1-7 shooting. Jimmy Butler’s 13 points, 7 rebounds and 7 assists aren’t enough for a guy that needs to dominate games if the Heat are to be a chance.

That all translated into a playoff-worst 100 offensive rating for the Heat. It’s unlikely to be that bad again, but they’ve put themselves on the back foot from the start and the fatigue of a long playoff run so far will only become a bigger factor the longer this series goes.

Game 2 Preview

It’s not must-win territory for the Heat. The game is in Denver and the Nuggets are heavy $1.26 and -8.5 favourites. However, it is must improve.

The first column to look at throughout Game 2 is ‘free throws attempted’.

Miami finished with only two free throws in Game 1. TWO!

It’s the fewest in NBA history and it wasn’t a case of “no calls” two free throws either.

Erik Spoelstra conceded as much:

“I thought the free throw disparity was appropriate…overall our attack numbers were lower and that translates to lower free throw attempts.”

They simply didn’t attack the rim often enough, tried to shoot their way out of a problem, and had no Plan B when it became clear (early) that the might need to do something different to keep up with the Nuggets on the scoreboard.

They undoubtedly need to shoot better. Butler probably needs to finish up Over his 26.5 points total if the Heat are to be a chance, too.

Denver’s -8.5 line is big but one that deserves consideration while playing at home. The Nuggets are 43-7 straight up and 31-18-1 against the spread at home this season.

The Heat have exceeded expectations to get to this point. Getting through the Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics, nobody expected them to be here. However, they did it by applying pressure early in the series. Their loss in Game 1 of this series ended a streak of six-consecutive series openers going back to last season. If they’re to apply that early-series pressure in the NBA Finals, winning Game 2 is a must.


NBA Coaching Carousel

While the Nuggets and Heat continue to play out their respective 2022-23 NBA seasons, the rest of the league is planning for 2023-24.

For the Phoenix Suns, that now involves Frank Vogel after the championship-winning coach signed a five-year deal with the franchise.

He’s been in a similar position before with the Lakers. Vogel takes on a team stacked with talent and ready to win now. Notably, he’s a proven defensive coach. When you have Devin Booker and Kevin Durant leading the way offensively, you don’t need to be an offensive genius. Instead, he can let his superstars do thier thing with the ball and ensure that the Suns improve without it.

Is Deandre Ayton going to be part of those improvements? We will have to wait and see.

Vogel is in a position to sign on with the Suns after they moved on from Monty Williams.

Williams took the Suns to the NBA Finals only two years ago but another disappointing post-season exit demanded a change. It didn’t take long for Williams to land on his feet, though. He has been tasked with rebuilding the Detroit Pistons from next season.

At $78.5 million across six years, it’s the largest coaching deal in NBA history.

Good luck with that one, Monty.



Nuggets on top of the World

Can they Heat up?

NBA Finals Preview – Denver Nuggets v Miami Heat

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