I’m a playoff goat this spring.
Not the good kind.
Somehow I completely forgot to launch a community playoff predictions thread before Rounds 1 and 2 of the NBA Tournament like we did last season in the first year of this Substack.
But I tried to salvage the concept by opening up the floor for conference finals predictions and we’re doing it again now that we have an NBA Finals matchup: Denver vs. Miami!
Forty-five respondents and your humble correspondent all registered predictions for the Western and Eastern Conference finals in a thread just like this. Our pal DeePee30 tallied up all the results and only eight of us, including yours truly, got both winners right. Absolutely none of us, mind you, managed to anticipate Denver’s 4-0 sweep. The aforementioned eight:
My Finals pick: Nuggets over Heat in 6.
I wanted to go Denver in 7 to show Miami my ultimate respect, but I generally try to avoid So-and-So-in-7 picks. Everything on paper says the Heat will be fortunate to take this thing 5 when you factor in their lack of size to counter Nikola Jokić, season-long scoring issues, presumed fatigue after the taxing Boston series and Denver’s homecourt advantage in that altitude … yet I’m convinced Jimmy, Spo and Co. will overcome all that to make it a series because, well, that’s what they do.)
Make your own picks in the thread below and I will lock the file before Thursday night’s Game 1 in Denver. And PLEASE list your first and last name somewhere in the prediction so we can properly identify those who get their forecast exactly right. As you can see above, three of our eight “winners” in the previous round are not especially identifiable.
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Nuggets in 5.
Sorry, Jimmy and Spo—Nuggets in 5
Heat in 5
Nuggets in five
Nuggets in Six
Denver in 6. Miami makes me nervous, but am thrilled I get to watch my Nuggets actually play in the finals. Never really thought I’d see the day.
Nuggets in five. I want to say six, but watching Adebayo at the tail end of the last series was painful. I wonder if he's injured or dealing with a crisis of confidence.
Either way, that's before he's given the most important task of the finals in matching or slowing down Jokic.
If Davis couldn't do it, and we get that version of Jokic in this series, I don't see how this version of Adebayo has a chance.
What's more, the Nuggets have already shown tremendous versatility to play a number of ways. Their supporting cast is at least as good as Miami's and Gordon already had a huge impact against LeBron and I think he will be up to the task against Jimmy Buckets.
Thanks! Shai Plonski
Denver in 5
Denver in 5.
4-1 (at home...)
Denver in 5. Just to throw a little respect at the Heat. If the Nuggets are focused enough to take care of the Lakers in 4, they will roll against the Heat.
I've got Denver in 5. Richard Penninkhof
Denver in 6 feels right. My guess is the nuggets win the first two at home and they split out the last 4 somehow. I’d love to see the Heat win in 7, since that would be a story for the ages (material for a great mini series) but the Nuggets are just too good. Mind, people said that about Milwaukee and Boston too.
Denver in 4
Denver in 4.
Nuggets in 5
Nuggets in 5. The talent gap is vast, home court will matter and so will Denver's huge rest advantage. If Miami wants to make this a series, they need to win Game 1 in Denver.
Nuggets in 5 ... (mile high) home court + rest + depth + unfairly maligned defense + Joker
Heat in 6
Denver in 5. Hopefully either winner gives further incentive for Embiid to step up in the playoffs. Either rival Jokic or buddy Jimmy
Sorry to be boring, but Nuggets in 5!
They easily take care of biz in first 2 games, despite a sluggish first half in game 1 to warm up after 2 weeks off; lose game 3 with a fired up Heat crowd; steal game 4 in a tight one; and win the championship at home in game 5.
Nuggets in five.
I should have gone with my Nuggets-in-5 intuition last round but I have to go with Nuggets in 6 because the Heat have shown enough intangibles to make this a series.
Nuggets in 6 - I would say 5 but I do think the Heat are a leg-up in the coaching department. Injuries and size advantages leaning towards Denver plus the elevation story if you buy into that are just too much. Then again, we've all been wrong before this year so we'll see!
Nuggets in 5. I don’t see the Heat stopping or even slowing down Jokic and this offensive machine. Although, I do love the Heat’s run this year, so I have to give them at least one game.
Nuggets in 5. Home court advantage will actually mean something for once. Jokic will feast on the lack of interior defense, and the role players won’t be enough to bail out the Heat when Butler and Adebayo don’t play well.
KFinnEsq - Nuggets in 5. The Nuggets are an offensive juggernaut, and Aaron Gordon has length and age advantages over Butler. Which Bam will show up? Too uncertain to bank on. Spo will implement his chaos inducing zone defenses, but with Jokic at the top of the key, Nuggets will slice & dice. Much respect to the Heat, but Nuggets will dominate.
Nuggets in six kevin jones
I have to go with the Nuggets-in-5 crowd. The lone Heat win is out of respect for how tough Spo, Butler, and company are. Nugget have too many weapons, a good deal of rest, and the altitude, and the Heat are bound to run out of gas. Also, without taking anything away from the Heat, the Celtics were even worse than we thought they were -- Denver would've swept them.
Nuggets in 5. Altitude such a huge advantage. This series proves the Heat are human as they just be a bit worn down from their grueling three series stretch.
Prior to making my prediction, some key facts.
1. Since the Jimmy Butler Heat era began on June 2019, Denver has won seven (7) regular games in a row. And yes, the bubble Miami win doesn't count in my books (nor does the championship, but this is a topic for another threat).
2. Average margin was 14+ points per game with Denver winning high scoring games, low scoring games, games with Joker scoring >80% fg or games with Joker scoring <35%
3. Denver has a lethal 1-2 player combo with all three other starters excelling in various aspects of games in the offseason. Miami has a lethal player and a decent - and sometimes solid - center with all three other - undrafted - starters who have overachieved again and again and ... again ?
4. Coach Spo has been there, done that (6 NBA Finals, 2 NBA Trophies) and in this year's run he deserves Playoffs MVC by a wiiiide margin. Coach Malone is great and he has a winning streak of six games this year with a serious chance of increasing it. Four of these six games came against LeBron and the Lakers vying for the 18th championship with all four of them with a close margin (also with AD apparently healthy in all four games. Figure that too...). Both coaches showed excellent adaptability.
5. Joker is 2xMVP and should be 3xMVP. He is also this year's Finals MVP with 29,9p/13,3r/10,3ast in 15gms/38,9 mpg. Jimmy B is also suberb this postseason with 28,5p/7,0r/5,7ast in 17gms/39,4 mpg. Close 2nd
6. Denver's high altitude advantage is real. I mean, real as in 'there is a real academic study issued in 2017 supporting this theory' real.
So, with all said and done, and the June Madness hyping a Heat-erella Story, where do I stand? I will pick Denver in 4. Yes it could go to 5, but I think Denver is too good, too focused, too well rested and too well tested to surrender even 1 game. And I say this with utmost respect to a Heat TEAM.
It's the NBA Finals and it's going to be damn good, with a 10th finals sweep or not!
i hate to go against miami at this point BUT everyone still, STILL, underestimates Jokic. This is one of the great players of this generation. And he's huge. He takes up space. If it were a mortal at the 5 for denver, Id take miami. But its a not mere mortal. Denver in 5
Heat beat the top two teams in the east. 58 and 57 win teams. Nuggets are 53 wins. No matter how good jokic is, 1 person cannot beat an evenly effective team. Heat in 6. EddyA
Miami Heat in 6. John Gratzek. Heat win game 1, games 3 & 4, and game 6.
Nuggets in 5
Nuggets in 5 - Daniel Harriman
Nuggets in 4. Steven Friedlander
Nuggets in 5. Danny Jeskey
lake rosenberg; Denver in 5
Heat run out of steam
Nuggets in 5. Jokic is unstoppable and the Heat won't have the length or energy after the Boston series to keep up.
Nuggets in 5. Better team, better bench, well rested, and an advantage for the altitude. It's been a nice ride for the heat, but it comes to an end after 5 games
Willy Z here.
I say the Heat put up another Champion's banner up.
I won't come easy but the Miami Heat will win this series in 6 games (Game 1, 3, 4, 6).
Resting is good, but you can also get out of rhythm. Also the Heat immediately had flights booked to Denver as per FAA before their game 7 matchup with Boston. They got there early enough for their bodies to adjust to the "altitude". A smaller, faster and more athletic center in Bam, can actually work out in the Heat. As he has proven to play well versus bigger centers. The Heat have a bunch of perimeter shooters. The have great penetration in the paint from multiple players, not just Jimmy Butler. The rise of Gabe Vincent and a potential return of Herro give the Heat yet more play makers and scorers. For those reasons, I give game 1 to Miami.
The Nuggs win game two, after adjustments are made and find their rhythm. The Heat should have Herro back, but even though the Heat have been playing well on the road, the take the L here.
Game 3 and 4, I give to the Heat because the Nuggets will be heavy favorites, which actually adds fuel to the Miami Heat. As we have seen through out the playoffs, the Miami Heat play better when they are underdogs. The Heat also have plenty of players with NBA finals experience, which will come into play in this series. The pressure and excitement can cause players and teams to meltdown as will be the case here.
Game #5 goes the Denver due to the fact they they can't lose another game. Backs against the wall.
Game #6 ends with Miami holding up the 4th Championship Trophy. They will celebrate down Key Biscayne and Jimmy Butler will get his first ring. This will go down in history and a true Cinderella story. Undrafted players to starters in a NBA championship team. Attach that to the hard work of Jimmy Butler and his dedication to improve his game and prove he is one of the greater players in the NBA.
Let's go Heat!
Nuggets in 5. As good as Jimmy & Bam are, and as well as Martin Straus Vincent have played ( and surprised me), there is no answer to the length of Joker, Porter & Gordon
Nuggets in 6
Denver in 5, Jokic MVP. Heat lose the first 2, split at home, then lose in Denver. Tyler Herro comes back for Game 3 or 4 and doesn't make an impact.
Not the most controversial prediction :)