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Monday, April 22, 2024

Lack of usual suspects is no problem for NBA Finals. 

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Has it sunk in yet for you NBA fans?  After just witnessing a spirited edition of the Finals without any of the faces you’ve become so accustomed to participating, are you doing all right?

After all there was no LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Kyrie Irving, Joel Embiid, Giannis Antetokounmpo or Jason Tatum. How could that of happened, and as basketball junkies, how in the world do we even begin to survive?

Rather easily l contend, as there was Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo playing off the charts allowing us to push aside our memories of the aforementioned and enjoy a phenomenal NBA Finals that many claimed in advance lacked star power. Cleary that assessment couldn’t of been further from the truth. The NBA Finals were nothing short of stupendous and left true basketball fans wanting more of the hard-nosed, old school play we witnessed. 

In winning their first NBA Championship, the Denver Nuggets showcased the best all-around player on the planet in Jokic, who had a staggering statistical line of 30 points, 14 rebounds, and just for good measure seven assists. His remarkable athleticism coupled with a blue-collar approach to the game that is as unselfish as you will ever see was a joy to experience as a fan and sets the stage for him to now be recognized as one of the greatest players in NBA history. 

While there has never been any questions about his talent, Jimmy Butler was a bit of an enigma in his previous stints with Chicago, Minnesota and Philadelphia. Credit Miami Executive Pat Riley for looking at Butler differently than most and acquiring him to lead his roster. Butler carried Miami on his back, turning the tables on Milwaukee, New York and Boston along the way in the playoffs, despite playing on an ankle that never had the time to fully heal. 

His tenacity and resolve was incredible and he too has now earned the absolute right to be discussed when the term NBA superstar is mentioned.

Jamal Murray showed anyone who knows anything at all about basketball how special he was as a player in the NBA playoffs that were conducted in the pandemic bubble. Many wondered if he could recover from a serious injury after his coming out party, and this regular season combined with the playoffs showed he is indeed back and amongst the short list of premier guards in the league. His statistical line in the Finals was gaudy at 22-6-10, but his ability to facilitate the Denver offense in addition to playing solid defense was even more impressive and provided a one-two punch with Jokic that is beyond lethal.

Heat center Bam Adebayo was a perfect augmentation to Butler as he posted an average of 21 points and 12 caroms in five NBA Finals games. One thing that doesn’t show up in the stat sheet is his physical demeanor and toughness and he commands a double team when he’s playing down low near the hoop.

He’s a quiet sort, but when you’re that tough, you really don’t have to say much.

Miami’s Erik Spoelstra gave Denver a ton of credit in his post game press conference calling them a deserving champion. The reserved but well-spoken coach worked wonders this season with a limited bench and continues to solidify his Hall of Fame credentials as he now ranks fifth in terms of all-time NBA Playoff coaching wins.

Denver Coach Mike Malone, who coached as an NBA assistant for years before landing at the time an ill-fated head coaching job with the Sacramento Kings for a year in 2014, probably wondered if he’d ever reach the top of the coaching mountain. His calm, steady influence on the organization during the early years of his tenure paid big dividends for the Nuggets, and once he was able to field the type of talent every coach needs to succeed in the NBA, he showed his true pedigree. 

The guy can flat out coach.

Danny Bridges, who felt the NBA Finals had plenty of star power and wanted it to go seven games, can be reached at (317) 370-8447 or at bridgeshd@aol.com

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