Miami Heat, Denver Nuggets ready for NBA Finals

Steve Angeles, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 01 2023 12:11 PM

Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra speaks with the media during the NBA Finals Media Day between the Miami Heat and the Denver Nuggets at Ball Arena in Denver, Colorado. Bob Pearson, EPA-EFE
Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra speaks with the media during the NBA Finals Media Day between the Miami Heat and the Denver Nuggets at Ball Arena in Denver, Colorado. Bob Pearson, EPA-EFE

DENVER, Colorado -- Same scenario, different city, but this time it’s for an NBA championship.

The Miami Heat have won three straight Game 1’s on the road and they are hoping to pick up another one.

Miami’s quest for a fourth NBA title goes through the rocky mountains in Denver, Colorado and the No. 1 team in West, the Denver Nuggets. 

Both teams held their media day at the Ball Arena in downtown Denver.

Coach Erik Spoelstra and the Miami Heat have defied the odds all season, battling injuries and tough losses, eventually entering the playoffs as an eighth seed before taking out the two teams in the Eastern Conference.

“I probably think more than anything, it's just the more experience you have, just the more gratitude you have for any of these kind of opportunities. This league is so fragile. It is so tough to go through the gauntlet. Not only just a regular season, 82 games, five and a half months, but then to go through the gauntlet of three seven-game series just to get to this point,” Spoelstra said.

“You're just really grateful for these kind of opportunities. This is a special group. This group has been able to overcome a lot of different things, handle a lot of adversity, setbacks, things that have not gone the way we wanted it to go. Instead of having that collapse our spirit, it allowed us to develop some fortitude and grit collectively and give us something to rally around, which was each other,” he added.

“Those are special qualities. I mentioned the other night, it's a reflection of life to be able to develop those kind of things that can get you through the tough times, and then when you overcome it, just makes things a lot more gratifying.”

In 15 years as head coach, this is the sixth NBA Finals appearance for Spoelstra. The Filipino-American won two championships as a head coach and a third as an assistant.

Udonis Haslem has spent his entire 20-year career with the Miami Heat and Spoelstra, appearing in seven NBA Finals together.

“It’s been amazing, watching his growth, watching him become a father, all these things, becoming one of my closest friends. It’s hard because you used to bump heads and feud with a coach but Spo and I have a special relationship and we work great together, and I’ve been fortunate to have a head coach and friend like Spo," Haslem said.

Haslem has become the embodiment of the team’s mantra of Heat Culture, defying the odds with hard work and doing it together.

“The true definition when you look at us, when you’re around us, when you experience a hard fought game and never being out of it, and what Coach Spo is about what we’re about and how were lead at the top that’s just who we are, what we’re about,” said Kevin Love.

Standing in the Heat’s way are the Denver Nuggets, who had the best record in the West, and have been on more than a week’s rest.

“I think these are the two last teams remaining, have the most chemistry within each other. (Kyle) Lowry has been a champion. Jimmy (Butler) has been in the playoffs a ton. I remember we played Jimmy in Minnesota for the eighth seed. I forget what year. I think it was 2018,” said Jamal Murray.

“I'm trying to go through the team. Drafted or not, they can all play. They play really well. The handoffs that they do. They put us in a lot of actions. The ball is hopping. They're unselfish looking for the shot, looking for the best shot. They use the whole shot clock. I think they're very well-rounded team and they trust each other. They've trusted each other a lot throughout the season. I think that's what sets them apart from all the other teams in the East that they faced,” he added.

“I think they're really together through the ups and downs. They're very resilient. Kind of like us in a sense where we're very resilient. Been together, continuity, chemistry, ball hops, unselfish. They're more of a gritty defensive team throughout the season, and we're more of an offensive powerhouse throughout the season. I think it's going to be a fun series.”

In the history of the NBA playoffs, no eighth seed has yet to win it all. Miami’s quest to be the first begins on Thursday night.