Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra is ready for the NBA Finals to begin. He doesn’t care about the impact of the Mile High altitude in Denver. He just wants to play. Anywhere, including the top of the world.
"If Denver wants to tip this thing off at the top of (Mount) Everest, we'll do that," Spoelstra said. "This thing is going to be decided between the four lines. They've also got to come back to Miami. If you want to make it about that, we'll turn off the air conditioning and they've got to play in 90-degree humidity, sap the (expletive) out of their legs. This thing is going to be decided between those four lines, and we'll decide it then."
The Heat are the second No. 8 seed to reach the Finals and they did it in the most dramatic fashion, beating the No. 1 seed Milwaukee Bucks in the first round and beating No. 2 seed Boston in the Eastern Conference finals in seven games after taking a 3-0 series lead, winning Game 7 on the road.
Denver was less dramatic − five games in the first round, six in the Western Conference semifinals and four in the conference finals. The Nuggets are in the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history.
"That's why we're excited to be here, but know we have a ton of work," Denver coach Michael Malone said. "It's going to be the hardest challenge that any of us have faced in our NBA careers."
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Here is the schedule, TV and live stream info, keys to the series and predictions for the NBA Finals:
The 2023 NBA Finals schedule
Game 1: Nuggets 104, Heat 93
Game 2: Heat 111, Nuggets 108
Game 3: Nuggets 109, Heat 94
Game 4: Nuggets 108, Heat 95
Game 5: Heat at Nuggets | Monday, June 12 | 8:30 p.m. ET (ABC)
Game 6: Nuggets at Heat | Thursday, June 15 | 8:30 p.m. ET (ABC) *
Game 7: Heat at Nuggets | Sunday, June 18 | 8 p.m. ET (ABC) *
* If necessary
TV and live stream information
Every NBA Finals game will air nationally on ABC and can be live streamed via Watch ESPN and the ESPN app. Every game will also air on ESPN Deportes. Additionally Game 1 can be streamed on ESPN+ and there will be an alternate broadcast on ESPN2 featuring Stephen A. Smith.
Regular-season matchup, recent history
The Nuggets won the season series 2-0 − 124-119 in Denver on Dec. 30 and 112-108 in Miami on Feb. 13.
Miami hasn’t won a game in Denver since 2016, which is also the last season Jokic and Murray were Nuggets reserves. Denver is 11-3 against Miami in the past seven seasons, including a six-game winning streak over the past three seasons.
How the Heat win
The Heat’s blueprint has revealed itself throughout the playoffs: play hard, commit to defense and hit 3-pointers at a rate higher than their regular-season percentage of 34.4%, which was No. 27 in the NBA. In the playoffs, the Heat lead the league at 39%, including 43.4% against Boston in the conference finals.
Jimmy Butler brings out the best in himself and his team in the playoffs. His tour de force is necessary. Bam Adebayo plays outstanding defense, even if his offense sometimes suffers, and there's that collection of undrafted shooters (Caleb Martin, Max Strus, Gabe Vincent and Duncan Robinson).
How the Nuggets win
Denver has emerged as the best team in the playoffs. That doesn’t guarantee a championship. Two-time MVP Nikola Jokic, a triple-double threat every game, and playmaker Jamal Murray, gifted as a scorer and passer, must continue their stellar play. As long as they do that, and the Nuggets receive strong contributions from Michael Porter Jr., Aaron Gordon, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Jeff Green and Bruce Brown, the Nuggets give themselves a great chance.
The Heat will present challenges with their dogged play and zone defenses, but the Nuggets are confident they can handle anything the Heat do defensively.
The Heat will have trouble stopping both Jokic and Murray, and what it takes to defend them has an impact on Miami’s offense. Butler, Adebayo and Martin will be tasked with heavy lifting defensively. Denver’s offense is relentless with its options, and that will wear down Miami in the series. As long as the Nuggets aren't complacent, this is a series they should win.
Nuggets in five
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: NBA Finals 2023 schedule, TV and live stream info, keys and prediction