Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets made their NBA Finals debut on Thursday night in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, and they did not disappoint. Jokic had a triple-double with games highs of 27 points and 14 assists, to go along with 10 rebounds, as the Nuggets handled the Heat 104-93 at Ball Arena.
Jokic didn’t do it alone, as Jamal Murray added 26 points, six rebounds, and 10 assists. The Nuggets led by as many as 24 points.
The two-time league MVP got open looks for many of his teammates; Denver had five players in double figures, so if Jokic wasn’t scoring, he was helping others to get off, which made Denver’s offense tough to stop.
“That’s how I learned to play basketball, and I think it’s really nice to play — it’s really hard to guard when you don’t know who’s going to attack and how to defend when everybody is moving, everybody is doing something,” Jokic said. “I think it’s a really nice brand of basketball that we have, and everybody buys in. I’m not sure that I did that for us or whatever, but I think everybody contributed, and everybody accepted it.”
Murray agreed with Jokic; Denver can attack teams in many ways.
“If they take the pocket away, we’re looking somewhere else,” Murray said. “If they take me away, then we’re looking somewhere else. We’re just trying to find the open man, find the best shot, find the mismatch. I think we do that throughout the game. So, it’s hard to guard everybody, instead of just one or two guys.
“We make you have to be locked in on defense throughout the game. I think tonight was just a great example of it could be anybody’s night and anybody’s quarter, maybe not your quarter. That’s just Nuggets basketball.”
The Nuggets had 29 assists on 40 field goals; Murray and Jokic had 24 of those 29 assists, and the combo became the third teammates to each record 10-plus assists in a Finals game.
Nuggets basketball is pretty, and if Jokic and Murray continue to play like this, Denver will be tough to beat in these Finals, but Miami will adjust, and we will see what they do in Game 2 on Sunday night.
Aaron Gordon scored 12 of his 16 points in the first quarter; Michael Porter Jr. added 14 points and 13 rebounds.
Bam Adebayo led the Heat with 26 points, 13 rebounds, and five assists; Gabe Vincent chipped in with 19 points.
We got an absolute classic on Saturday night in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals between the Boston Celtics and the Miami Heat.
Jimmy Butler, who was 5/21 from the field but finished with 24 points, 11 rebounds, and eight assists, was fouled by Al Horford, shooting a three. Butler would make all three free throws with 3.0 seconds to go, which gave the Celtics enough time. Boston’s Marcus Smart would miss a three, Derrick White would tip it in at the buzzer, and Boston would defeat the Heat 104-103 in Miami to even the series at three.
After being down 3-0, the Celtics have forced a Game 7 on Monday night back in Boston and could be the first team in NBA history to come back from a 3-0 deficit. Last season, the Celtics defeated the Heat in the conference finals in Game 7 in Miami.
According to Butler, if he had played better, the Heat would have finished the series.
“Like I told the guys on the bench, I told the guys in the locker room, that if I play better, we’re not even in this position, honestly speaking,” Butler said after the loss. “And I will be better. That’s what makes me smile because those guys follow my lead. So when I’m playing better, I think we’re playing better as a whole.”
Butler knows the Heat must find a way to get through the Celtics.
“I think, I believe, as we all do like you’re going to get the same test until you pass it, I swear,” he said. “We were in this same position last year. We can do it. I know that we will do it. We’ve got to go on the road and win in a very, very, very tough environment. But we are capable of it. So let’s get busy.”
Miami won the first two games of this series and has proven they can succeed in Boston, and Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra is confident in his guys.
“This is one hell of a series,” he said. “At this time right now, I don’t know how we are going to get this done, but we are going up there and get it done. And that’s what the next 48 hours is about.”
Boston is 5-0 in these playoffs in elimination games and defeated the 76ers in Game 7 in the second round. This is a battled-tested group that has “unfinished business.”
It will be tough for the Heat to win after such a deflating loss, but as Spoelstra said, Miami will have to get it done.
After three games in the Eastern Conference finals, the Miami Heat led the series 3-0 and were on the verge of what appeared to be a sweep. However, the Celtics fought back in the second half of Game 4 in Miami and kept the series alive.
On Thursday night in Game 5 in Boston, the Celtics led from start to finish and defeated the Heat 110-97.
Boston, who led by as many as 24 points, had four players score at least 20 or more. Derrick White led the way with 24 points, Marcus Smart had 23, and Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown added 21 points a piece.
The series shifts back to Miami for Game 6 on Saturday, and Jimmy Butler, who had 14 points, five rebounds, and five assists, believes the Heat will end the series in Miami.
“We’ve just got to play better,” Butler said. “Start the game off better on the starters; make it more difficult for them. They are in a rhythm since the beginning of the game. But we are always going to stay positive, knowing that we can, and we will win this series. We’ll just have to close it out at home.”
Butler explained why he has so much confidence.
“Because the last two games are not who we are,” he said. “It just happened to be that way. We stopped playing defense halfway because we didn’t make shots that we want to make. But that’s easily correctable. You just have to come out and play harder from the jump. Like I always say, it’s going to be all smiles, and we are going to keep it very, very, very consistent, knowing that we are going to win next game.”
On paper, the Celtics are the better team. In the first two games, the Celtics were close but could not close it out. In Game 3, Boston was terrible, and now they may have righted the ship.
We’ll see what happens in Game 6.
Jimmy Butler has done it again. Butler, who had 35 points in Game 1, scored nine of his 27 points in the fourth quarter, including two big shots down the stretch that gave Miami the lead for good as the Heat defeated the Celtics 111-105 on Friday night in Boston to take a 2-0 series lead.
Games 3 and 4 are in Miami, with Game 3 being on Sunday; Miami can close out this series at home.
Butler, who brought the Heat back from a 12-point fourth-quarter deficit in Game 2, was motivated by the trash-talking with Boston’s Grant Williams, and the two players went back and forth down the stretch.
“Yes, it did,” Bulter said about the trash talk motivating him. “But that’s just competition at its finest. He hit a big shot. Started talking to me; I like that. I’m all for that. It makes me key in a lot more. It pushes that will that I have to win a lot more. It makes me smile. It does. When people talk to me, I’m like, okay, I know I’m a decent player if you want to talk to me out of everybody that you can talk to. But it’s just competition. I do respect him, though. He’s a big part of what they try to do. He switches. He can shoot the ball. I just don’t know if I’m the best person to talk to (laughter).”
Bam Adebayo, who added 22 points, 17 rebounds, and nine assists, added on Butler: “I feel like things like that always fuel Jimmy. I feel like he starts it so it can get him more in the competition. You see down the stretch what he was doing.”
Butler’s head coach Erik Spoelstra likes his competitive fire.
“Look, I love that gnarly version of Jimmy, but you get that regardless,” Spoelstra said. “I just think people now are paying a lot more attention to him now that we’ve won some games in the postseason the last few years. Jimmy is just a real competitor.”
The Heat have the advantage at this point, but they may have to be even better in Games 3 and 4 to beat the Celtics. Game 3 is going to be huge. History says if Miami wins Game 3, they win the series because no team has come back from a 3-0 deficit, so expect Boston to have a great effort on Sunday night.
The Cavs(31-22) continued their three-game homestand on Tuesday night against the Miami Heat(29-23).
This was a back-and-forth affair, but the Cavs would fall 100-97 after Donovan Mitchell missed a three at the buzzer.
Here’s the Great, Not So Great, and the Bottom Line of the Cavs’ loss to the Heat.
Evan Mobley led the Cavs with 19 points, seven rebounds, four assists, and two blocks. He had a team-best +16 rating.
Jarrett Allen recorded another double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds.
Not So Great:
Backcourt: Donovan Mitchell and Darius Garland had 16 points apiece. They were a combined 13/30 from the field and 5/20 from deep(Mitchell 3/13 3-PT FG, Garland 2/7 3-PT FG). The Cavs, on average, get 49.4 points per game from Mitchell and Garland, but against the Heat, the two combined for 32 points.
Free Throw Line: Cleveland was 6/12(50%) from the charity stripe on Tuesday.
Final 3:28 of Regulation: After an Isaac Okoro three tied things up at 92, the Cavs would make one field goal the rest of the way. Miami went on a 6-1 run over the next two minutes, and ultimately, they held on to get the win.
You have to close out games, and right now, the Cavs need to do that at a consistent enough level. Two of their last three losses(Heat and Knicks) have come down to the final possession.
The expectations are high in Cleveland, but this team is not a finished product. The Cavs have a young basketball team who are learning how to win, which takes time.
Cleveland, who has not won two straight since early early January, was not expected to win an NBA title this season. Still a lot of basketball left, but this team has to be a little more consistent.
The Cavs host the Memphis Grizzlies on Thursday night.
Best of the Rest:
-Jimmy Butler led the Heat with 23 points. Caleb Martin, Bam Adebayo, and Tyler Herro each had 18 points. Adebayo added 11 rebounds, and Martin had a career-high 10 rebounds.
-Caris LeVert had 14 points off the bench for Cleveland.
-Kevin Love(back) missed his fourth game straight game.
-Mitchell led the Cavs with four steals
After falling in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals at home, the Boston Celtics knew they would have to come up big if they wanted to defeat the Miami Heat in Game 7 Sunday night.
Boston never trailed in Game 7 as Jayson Tatum had 26 points and 10 rebounds; Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown added 24 points apiece as the Celtics advanced to the NBA Finals to face the Golden State Warriors after defeating the Heat 100-96 at FTX Arena.
Game 1 of the NBA Finals is Thursday night at Chase Center.
With the win, Boston returns to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2010.
“It’s the biggest game of the season, of my career, and I just had faith that we were going to give it all we had, regardless of the outcome,” Tatum, who was named Eastern Conference finals MVP, said after the win. “But it feels great, honestly. Some of those guys been to the Eastern Conference Finals four times; it’s my third time. Obviously, we know we want to win a championship, right, but to get over this hump in the fashion that we did it, obviously, we took the toughest route possible, and then to win a Game 7 to go to a championship on the road is special.”
Boston had its largest lead of 17 points in the second quarter and led 98-85 with 3:35 left in the fourth. However, Miami went on a furious 11-0 run to cut the lead to 98-96 with just under 20 second to go with the ball in the hands of their best player, Jimmy Butler, who scored a game-high 35 points and had Al Horford on his heels.
However, Butler pulled up for three, which was short, and Smart hit two free throws to seal the game. Butler appeared to have had the advantage and probably could have gotten a layup or fouled, but he went for the win, which he was comfortable with after the game.
“My thought process was go for the win, which I did,” he said. “Missed a shot. But I’m taking that shot. My teammates liked the shot that I took. So I’m living with it.”
According Horford, who will be making his first NBA Finals appearance after 141 career playoff games, the most in league history, Butler’s shot was nerve-racking.
“Yeah, I was loaded,” he said. “I didn’t know what he was going to do. It seemed like he was going to go for the shot, but I had to make sure that I stayed solid and when he pulled up for the three, I was like, let me contest the best way that I can. He got a good look at it, and it was nerve-racking. It was nerve-racking. He pulled up, and anything could have happened there. He could have made the shot and fortunately contested it enough, and he missed it, and we were able to get control of the ball.”
Boston’s Brown had this reaction to Butler’s shot: “I didn’t want to give up an offensive rebound, but when he shot that, I was like, man, what the hell. But he missed, we get the rebound, we move on.”
The Celtics made a lot of changes last offseason. Their former head coach Brad Stevens replaced Danny Ainge in the front office, and they hired Ime Udoka as head coach.
It wasn’t all pretty for Boston as they got off to a slow start this season, and at one point were 18-21 on January 6, but through it all, they battled, fought, and now they’re in the NBA Finals.
For Udoka, who became the first rookie head coach to win multiple Game 7s in NBA history, this win epitomized Boston’s season.
“It’s been a long road obviously throughout the season,” Udoka said. “Feels like it was always meant to be this way, difficult, obviously, two Game 7s in the last two series, and shows what I said about our group, that we fought through a lot of adversity this year, a resilient group, and tonight seemed to kind of typify our season.”
The Celtics split the season series with the Warriors, but that means nothing. Both teams are playing well, and both teams have found ways to get the job done. The Warriors have the experience as no player on Boston’s roster has played in an NBA Finals’ game, but Boston has defied the odds all season long, and we’ll see if that continues in the Finals.
Jimmy Butler has been one of the best players in the 2022 NBA playoffs, and on Friday night, with their backs against the wall, the Miami Heat needed him to be at his best.
Well, he delivered.
Butler scored a playoff-career-high 47 points as the Heat avoided elimination and defeated the Celtics 111-1o3 in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals at TD Garden.
The seventh and deciding game is Sunday night in Miami. The winner will battle the Warriors in the NBA Finals.
Butler, who recorded his fourth 40-plus point game in these playoffs, got a special call from Heat legend Dwyane Wade before the game, which according to Butler, was well needed.
“D-Wade never hits me until his voice is really, really needed,” Butler said. “And it was. I texted him and told him I appreciate him for it. Just to let me go out there, continue to build on that legacy, and make sure that we win.”
“It’s (expletive) incredible,” Kyle Lowry, who had 18 points and 10 assists, said about Butler’s performance. “He’s such a humble basketball player. The work he does put in, I witness it. It’s incredible to have a guy like him next to me. I’ve played with some great players, and he’s one of the best players I’ve played with.”
This performance by Butler was very similar to LeBron James’ big Game 6 performance against the Celtics in the 2012 Eastern Conference finals, where the Heat trailed 3-2. In that game, James had 45 points and 15 rebounds, and Miami defeated the Celtics in Boston. That was a great performance, and what Butler did Friday night was equally special.
Celtics’ Jaylen Brown, who had 20 points, six rebounds, and five assists, was impressed by Butler’s performance, but he feels Boston will do a better job against Butler in Game 7.
“He just had it rolling. Made a lot of shots that on film we’ll live with,” Brown said. “Made four threes; I don’t think he’s made four threes in a game all Playoffs, but tonight he came out, and he was aggressive. He played like his back was on the wall, and he had an amazing game, and we just had no answers for him tonight. We’ve got to do a better job — we will do a better job on Sunday.”
Now, it’s onto Game 7, and no one knows what will happen. Boston has won in Miami twice in this series, so they definitely have a shot.
Who wins Game 7 is anyone’s guess.
In the second half of Game 3 of their Eastern Conference finals series against the Boston Celtics., the Miami Heat were without their best player in the playoffs and their best player in this series, Jimmy Butler(knee inflammation), and they were missing Tyler Herro(groin), who sat out the final eight minutes of the fourth.
However, Bam Adebayo scored 14 of his 25 points in the second half, and P.J. Tucker had nine of his 17 points in the second half as the Heat held on to beat the Celtics 109-103 at TD Garden Saturday night.
Miami leads the series 2-1. Game 4 is Monday night in Boston.
Miami led from start to finish and led by as many as 26 points in the first half, but Jaylen Brown came alive in the second half as he had 25 of his 40 points in the second half, including 14 points in the fourth. Boston cut the lead to 93-92 with under three minutes left, but Max Strus would connect on a three; Adebayo hit a jump hook as the Heat went on a 16-8 run to close the game.
Miami came out with renewed purpose on Saturday night after getting routed by Boston in Game 2.
“Well, as everybody knows, in the previous game, they beat us like we stole something,” Adebayo said after the win.”That should wake anybody up, getting beat like that at home. From my point of view, that says it all.”
The Heat got it done, but concern has to shift to Butler and Herro. They were able to weather the storm without both players in Game 3, but if these two are out for an extended period, Miami will have to figure some things out going forward.
“That’s the part that sucks about the game, the injuries, and you know, this is tough,” Kyle Lowry, who scored 11 points after missing the first two games of this series, said. “Jimmy is a warrior. Tyler is a warrior. But we have to continue to stay focused on what we did as a group tonight, and hopefully, those guys will be back and ready to go next game.”
Everybody is battling something at this point of an NBA season, and it could come down to which team is the healthiest. Boston was without Marcus Smart and Al Horford in Game 1, and Jayson Tatum left but returned in the fourth after injuring his shoulder.
It appears we will have a long series; we’ll see who is the last team standing.
On Sunday night, James Harden had his most significant moment as a 76er, and it came at the right time.
Harden scored 16 of his team-high 31 points in the fourth quarter, with seven rebounds, and nine assists as the 76ers defeated the Heat 116-108 to tie their Eastern Conference second-round series at 2-2.
The pivotal Game 5 is Tuesday night in Miami.
Harden, who was acquired from Brooklyn before the trade deadline, was 5/9 from the field, including 4/6 from deep in the fourth quarter.
“That’s why he’s here,” Joel Embiid said about Harden.
“Just took what the defense gave me,” Harden said. “Same shots just made some. Nothing really changed, man, just made some shots. Obviously, that’s a game-changer, but just being aggressive… and that group that started the fourth quarter did a really good job of pushing the lead up and doing what we’re supposed to do.”
Tyrese Maxey, who scored 18 points, was excited to see Harden go off.
“It was great,” Maxey said. “It was amazing. It was great to see. You know, they were switching everything and didn’t let me have a lot of movement or a lot of continuity, so he just hit some big, long one shots, and in the playoffs, sometimes everyone knows what you are trying to do. Everybody knows what each team is trying to do to you, and they take things away, and it’s nice to have a lot of three-level scorers on your team, and we have a few of those collectively, maybe four or five of them, and it’s just night-to-night to prepare and hook up.”
The 76ers have knotted the series at two after winning Games 3 & 4, but according to Embiid, who had 24 points and 11 rebounds Sunday night, Philly has not played their best game yet in this series.
“I mean, the way we played is the reason why we were able to tie the series, but I don’t think we have played our best basketball,” Embiid said. “Tonight , we had way too many turnovers, 16, and we missed a bunch of wide-open shots.”
It’s the best of three, and the 76ers have the momentum, but they still have to win in Miami, which won’t be easy. However, if Harden can play as he did in Game 4, and Embiid can continue to build on his performance on Sunday, Philly has a shot.
-Jimmy Butler led all scorers with 40 points to go along with six assists. This is the fourth 40-point playoff game of Butler’s career.
-Danny Green continued his strong shooting with a 4-6 performance including three makes from deep as he totaled 11 points to go along with two steals.
-Philadelphia had six players in double figures, including all five starters.