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NBA Finals Predictions and Game 1 Open Thread

And then there were two...

Denver Nuggets v Miami Heat Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images

Denver Nuggets vs. Miami Heat - 8:30pm ET - ABC/ESPN+

After having playoff basketball to watch basically every day for over a month, the handful of off days between Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals and tonight’s Game 1 of the NBA Finals felt like an eternity. Before we sit down for the action, here are a couple staff predictions for how the series will unfold:

Paul Hudrick: Not only do the Nuggets have arguably the best player this postseason, they arguably have the second-best. Nikola Jokic is a two-time MVP, but Jamal Murray has looked every bit a superstar. The Heat’s run has been incredible and it’s no fluke. With Jimmy Butler leading the way and Caleb Martin having a coming out party, Miami has looked physically and mentally tougher than every opponent they’ve faced. I like Denver in a VERY tight series. The Nuggets are a smart and disciplined team that won’t be phased by the Heat’s physicality and zone looks, but Miami will make them earn everything.

Sean Kennedy: Despite what some of mainstream media would have you believe, we have a number of fun storylines entering these NBA Finals. Denver has the player who has been the most dominant across both the regular season and postseason this year. The Heat have arguably the best 16-game player in the league. Both teams come in with the proverbial chip on their shoulder — Miami because everyone underestimated them as an 8-seed (rightfully, I would argue, considering their regular season and play-in performances), and the Nuggets because the media seems weirdly determined to discount their accomplishments at every turn.

At the risk of invoking #HeatCulture devil magic, I have to go Denver here. Nikola Jokic has been as consistent as they come as an alpha this postseason, whereas Jimmy Butler has been much more up-and-down. The Heat have no second banana who can light it up nearly to the degree of Denver’s Jamal Murray (with due apologies to Caleb Martin). Plus, the altitude in Denver is a real thing; there’s no way the Heat could win three road games like they did in Boston. Miami will win one game due to a classic Himmy Butler 40-spot, and one because of hot three-point shooting variance, but I’m going Denver in 6.

Let us know your predictions in the comments and then follow along in tonight’s Game 1 open thread.

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