DENVER (AP) — The NBA Finals get underway Thursday night as the Denver Nuggets host the Miami Heat in Game 1. Before you watch, at home or in person, here are six things to know about the 2023 finals.
6 games are most common
The NBA Finals will end in six games. At least, that’s what history says.
Out of the first 76 editions in the history of the NBA Finals, the series has ended in six games 30 times.
That’s by far the most common outcome.
The title series has gone to Game 7 on 19 occasions, ended in five games on 18 occasions and wound up as a four-game sweep only nine times.
Each of the last four years has seen the finals end in exactly six games — Toronto over Golden State in 2019, the Los Angeles Lakers over the Heat in 2020, Milwaukee over Phoenix in 2021 and Golden State over Boston last season.
Denver will break franchise record
The Nuggets will tie a franchise record by playing their 50th home game of the season on Thursday night, when they host Game 1 of the NBA Finals. (And that, of course, means they’ll break the team record in Game 2 on Sunday night.)
Denver has already set a single-season franchise home wins mark, with 42 entering this series (42-7). If the Nuggets go 3-0 or 4-0 home in the NBA Finals, they’ll pass the 1976-77 team (38-6, .864) for the second-best home record in franchise history.
They were 40-4 at home in 2012-13, the team’s single-season best mark.
Who says divisional play is meaningless? For the 11th time in the last 12 seasons, a division champion will win the NBA title.
Denver won the Northwest Division. Miami won the Southeast Division.
Last season, Golden State won the NBA title despite finishing 11 games behind Phoenix. That snapped a streak of 10 consecutive years when the eventual NBA champion also won its division. Before Golden State last year, the most recent division nonwinner to grab the title was Dallas in 2011.
Record for Miami’s Haslem?
If he appears in the NBA Finals, Miami’s Udonis Haslem — in his 20th and final season — would set a record.
Haslem turns 43 on June 9. He could be the oldest player to appear in the title series, breaking the mark of 42 years, 58 days set by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on June 13, 1989. Abdul-Jabbar played 29 minutes in that game for the Los Angeles Lakers, in a loss to the Detroit Pistons.
Abdul-Jabbar is one of four players to get playing time in the finals after turning 40; Herb Williams, Karl Malone and Kevin Willis are the others.
Juwan Howard — 39 years, 135 days old — is the oldest player to get into a finals game for the Heat, that one coming on the night they topped Oklahoma City for the 2012 title.
Haslem didn’t appear in the 2020 finals. He last played a finals game on June 15, 2014, six days after his 34th birthday.
No. 8 seeds: Miami could break record
Miami needs one win to break a tie with the 1998-99 New York Knicks for most wins by a No. 8 seed in NBA playoff history.
The Knicks went 12-8 in the playoffs that season on their way to the NBA Finals. The Heat are 12-6 so far in these playoffs.
If Miami wins a game in this series, it’ll be its fifth win over a No. 1 seed so far in these playoffs. Under this format, put into place by the NBA in 1984, no eighth-seeded team has gotten more than four wins against top-seeded opponents. The Knicks went 4-6 vs. No. 1 seeds in 1999; the Heat are 4-1 after ousting Milwaukee in Round 1 this year.
Miami coach approaching win mark
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra’s next win will be the 814th of his career, including playoffs. That’ll tie him with Gene Shue for 17th-most in NBA history.
— KDVR contributed to this report.