DENVER — The die-hard Denver Nuggets fans may have a problem with bandwagon fans coming out of the woodwork now that the team is headed to the NBA Finals. But this could be a pivotal moment for the city and the state as people come together. It's positive news that builds collective pride and community, a welcomed relief for so many people after the heaviness of the last few years.
Whether you're a Colorado native or new to the state, we've collected some of the most important info in one place, so you can start talking like a longtime supporter. And as all sports fans know, you enjoy the game more the more you know about the game and the players.
The NBA Finals
This is what the Super Bowl is to football, or more closely what the World Series is to baseball and Stanley Cup Championship is to hockey. It's a best-of-seven game series for the championship title.
For the first time in franchise history, the Denver Nuggets will play for an NBA championship after sweeping the Los Angeles Lakers to win the Western Conference Finals. It's been a long and winding road for the franchise to finally get their shot at the Finals.
The Nuggets have not lost a home playoff game. They have won six straight games overall, regardless of venue, playing their best when it matters most.
Who the Nuggets are playing
The Miami Heat were crowned Eastern Conference champions Monday night after narrowly avoiding a surprising comeback from the Boston Celtics in the second half of Game 7.
Boston, the East's No. 2 seed, had become one of only five teams to even a playoff series after falling in a 0-3 hole. No team has ever overcome the deficit to win a series.
With the Heat — the East’s No. 8 seed — advancing, the Nuggets will host Games 1 and 2 at Ball Arena, as well as Games 5 and 7, if necessary.
The two teams have a bit of a heated (pun intended) past.
Two years ago, Nikola Jokić and Jimmy Butler got into a physical altercation with forward Markieff Morris. Sports Illustrated reports "Morris sustained a season-ending back injury" as a result, so Butler got into a tense argument with Jokić, which was caught on camera. Sports Illustrated posits "had Morris not been injured, the Heat may have made the Finals last season."
The players to know
The NBA Finals series between the Nuggets and Heat will feature players with strikingly similar names: Denver’s center Nikola Jokić and Miami’s power forward Nikola Jović. Both are of Serbian descent, though Jović was born in the United Kingdom.
Jokić wears No. 15 for the Nuggets. Jović wears No. 5 for Miami.
While the names and numbers are nearly identical, the players are not.
Denver's Jokić was named NBA MVP — twice. He was named this year's Western Conference Finals MVP.
Miami's Jović is a reserve player whose first year in the league was riddled with injuries.
Some more notable Nuggets players you'll see on the court during the best-of-seven game series? Jamal Murray, whose explosive performances have lifted the team in too-close-for-comfort circumstances, and Michael Porter, Jr., known for his clutch 3-point shots.
On the Heat, you'll hear talk about forward Jimmy Butler, the Heat's best player, and center Bam Adebayo, Heat’s star big man who was named second team All-Defense this season.
The Nuggets will cap their superb season under coach Michael Malone.
In March, Malone celebrated his 400th career victory as Denver beat Detroit. He’s only the third coach to eclipse the 400-win mark in franchise history.
Erik Spoelstra begins his 15th season as head coach of the Heat and his 28th as a member of the NBA. In 14 seasons at the helm, Spoelstra has already established his place in the Heat record book as the winningest coach in franchise history.
- Nuggets shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was on the Los Angeles Lakers team that beat the Miami Heat in the 2020 NBA Finals.
- The same four teams in the conference finals this year were the same four in 2020: The Nuggets, the Heat, the Celtics and the Lakers.
- The Nuggets are one of four remaining teams from the American Basketball Association, including the Indiana Pacers, San Antonio Spurs and Brooklyn Nets.
Here is the schedule:
Game 1: Thursday, June 1 @Nuggets| 6:30 p.m. MST (Denver7)
Game 2: Sunday, June 4 @Nuggets | 6 p.m. MST (Denver7)
Game 3: Wednesday, June 7 @Heat| 6:30 p.m. MST (Denver7)
Game 4: Friday, June 9 @Heat| 6:30 p.m. MST (Denver7)
Game 5*: Monday, June 12 @Nuggets| 6:30 p.m. MST (Denver7)
Game 6*: Thursday, June 15 @Heat| 6:30 p.m. MST (Denver7)
Game 7*: Sunday, June 18 @Nuggets| 6 p.m. MST (Denver7)