3 reasons Heat must not panic after ugly NBA Finals Game 1 loss to Nuggets

The Miami Heat were outclassed by the Denver Nuggets in Game 1 of the 2023 NBA Finals, marking the first time Erik Spoelstra’s team dropped a series opener in the 2023 NBA Playoffs.

The Heat looked more like the 8th seed they are. They struggled to find rhythm offensively and even looked fatigued with some shots falling short, which was somewhat expected considering they just came off a grueling seven-game series in the Eastern Conference Finals and were playing at altitude.

Bam Adebayo and Gabe Vincent were Miami’s bright spots. Unlike the rest of the Heat team, Adebayo was comfortable offensively from the opening tip, scoring 25 points on 13-of-25 shooting. Vincent also had a strong outing with 19 points and five three-pointers.

Meanwhile, the Western Conference champions looked every bit like favorites to hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy. Nikola Jokic had a historic triple-double performance even without dominating the scoreboard, while Jamal Murray added 26 points and 10 assists to lead the Nuggets to a 104-93 Game 1 win.

The notable name missing from the Heat party was undoubtedly Jimmy Butler. Butler finished with just 13 points on 6-of-14 shooting and was a team-worst minus-17 in 38 minutes.

While their Game 1 performance was certainly discouraging, the Heat should not hit the panic button just yet. Here are three reasons why.

3. Shots will eventually fall through

The Heat shot just 40.6 percent from the field and 33.3 percent from three as a team in Game 1.

The main culprit behind that dismal shooting clip was Max Strus, who bricked all 10 of his shots from the field—including nine three-point attempts, many of which were quality looks—en route to a scoreless NBA Finals debut. Considering the kind of shots he was able to get, the Heat no doubt expect Strus to be more productive going forward.

Caleb Martin also proved unable to get going going, failing to carry over momentum from his epic Game 7 performance in the Eastern Conference Finals. Martin scored just three points on 1-of-7 shooting, his lone make being a semi-open left wing three late in the third quarter. Most of the time, those shots went down for the 6-foot-5 wing, especially during the previous round.

Nonetheless, those two shouldn’t be singled out for Miami’s shooting struggles. Duncan Robinson also had an off night, going just 1-of-5 from the field. Butler also didn’t channel Playoff Jimmy with an inefficient scoring game.

For the most part, Miami seemed to get the shots they needed to get, especially for their shooters. If that continues, the Heat should be in good shape.

2. Playoff Jimmy Butler is just fashionably late to the party

Jimmy Butler wasn’t Playoff Jimmy at all in Game 1.

His 13 points came on 14 field goal attempts, too low a number for a superstar of Butler’s standards. And it’s not like Butler and the Heat have the luxury that Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets have in terms of scoring depth. As admirable as this postseason run has been, this Miami team is still full of undrafted players who’ve wildly exceeded expectations just to be here.

That is why Butler must set the tone and be aggressive for his team to have a chance to win the Finals—a mindset he must have for a full 48 minutes. Butler seemed to be on that track after the first quarter, when he already had seven shot attempts. He only took seven more over the next three quarters.

Sure, the Nuggets defense deserves credit for forcing the ball out of Butler’s hands. But his lack of aggression, especially attacking the basket, was one of the main reasons Miami lost Game 1. Butler shot zero free throws in this game, which is inexcusable. Prior to entering the Finals, the six-time All-Star was averaging over nine free throw attempts per game. That is a clear indication he wasn’t getting to the rim enough, settling for too many jumpers or low-advantage passes to teammates.

Butler knows that he needs to be better. If and when he gets his mind right, the Heat should be in good shape to compete with the heavily-favored Nuggets.

1. Tyler Herro may be nearing a return

The Heat received some good news ahead of the opener with Tyler Herro aiming for a return in Game 3 of the NBA Finals. Herro broke his hand in the very first game of the playoffs and has been out throughout this magical run by the Heat.

Herro’s return would inject Miami with a much-needed boost offensively. He was Miami’s third-leading scorer during the regular season and his return could help the team in terms of having another shot creator and playmaker.

Still, it would be interesting how Herro’s return could impact someone like Martin, who has been a revelation in his absence. Paul Pierce believes Herro’s injury was a “blessing in disguise” as it revealed Martin as the better player among the two.

Butler, however, doesn’t believe that.

“I just think the guys that Coach [Erik Spoelstra] and Coach Pat [Riley] put together,” Butler said following their Game 7 win over the Celtics. “When a guy goes down, the next guy can fill in that gap and do exactly what that guy that went down did and do it at a high level.

“And you know, be humble enough to know that when that guy comes back, you have to step back and get back in your role.” Butler added.

Martin has certainly done enough to earn a significant role on the Heat, especially through this Finals run, even when Tyler Herro comes back.

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Heat star Jimmy Butler makes bold guarantee for Game 2 vs. Nuggets

The Denver Nuggets claimed Game 1 of the 2023 NBA Finals by a final score of 104-93, thus cooling off the previously white-hot Miami Heat in the process. However, while they may have just endured their first opening-game loss during their miraculous postseason run, Jimmy Butler doesn’t seem to believe this type of turnout will roll on over into Game 2.

During his post-game media session, the perennial All-Star discussed what he believes set the tone early on during Thursday night’s affair, and continued on to make a bold guarantee regarding what’s to come for the Heat moving on in this series.

“I definitely think they came out with a lot of physicality. We have to be able to match that. They did their job on their home floor, you have to say that, but we’ll be ready [for Game 2]. We’ll adjust and do some things very differently and come out here and get one for Game 2,” Jimmy Butler said.

Despite fears of showing signs of rust after such a long period of rest following their Western Conference Finals triumph over the Lakers, the Denver Nuggets certainly came out of the gates swinging in Game 1 and found themselves heading into halftime with a 17-point edge (59-42).

Miami would go on to outscore the Nuggets during the final two periods of action (51-45), though the early hole they fell into proved too deep to climb out of.

Heading into Saturday’s Game 2, Jimmy Butler seems confident that his Heat will be able to make the necessary adjustments to tie up this series at one win apiece before heading down to South Beach for a two-game stay.

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3 Heat most to blame for 2023 NBA Finals Game 1 loss to Nuggets

The Miami Heat lost a Game 1 for the first time in this postseason after dropping the 2023 NBA Finals opener to the Denver Nuggets, 104-93. The Nuggets were in cruise control through most of the game, while the Heat struggled to put the ball in the basket.

Bam Adebayo was Miami’s best player in Game 1. The Heat center finally found his rhythm from the field, going 13-of-25 to finish with a team-high 26 points to go along with 13 rebounds and five assists. Gabe Vincent also had a strong outing with 19 points, five assists, and five three-pointers. Do you notice someone missing from the Heat top players in Game 1? That’s right. Jimmy Butler.

Adebayo and Vincent certainly did their part in helping keep Miami in step with Denver, though it should be noted the Nuggets will surely be fine with Bam taking 25 shots and zero free throws. And for the Heat to even have a chance to compete against this loaded Nuggets squad, they will need a lot more than what they got in Game 1, especially from their franchise star. With that said, here are the three Heat players most to blame for their Game 1 NBA Finals loss to the Nuggets.

1. Jimmy Butler

This is an easy one. Jimmy Butler didn’t channel Playoff Jimmy for Game 1 of the NBA Finals. The Heat forward finished with just 13 points on Thursday night, going 6-of-14 from the field. He was also a minus-17 for the evening, the lowest plus-minus among all Heat players. For comparison, Haywood Highsmith scored 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting for the Heat in Game 1. Honestly, those stats are all you need to know to find out if Miami won or lost this game.

We mentioned how Butler will need to set the tone for the Heat in this series. And for a moment there, it seemed like Miami was going to get a strong performance from their franchise star. He scored the first five points for Miami and finished with seven points on 3-of-7 shooting for the Heat. While the shooting wasn’t good, it was a good sign he was aggressive early.

But after the first, he shot just seven more times from the field the rest of the way. Butler cannot be as passive as he was for three quarters if the Heat want to have a chance against the Nuggets. Butler will have to be aggressive, assertive and be in attack mode through 48 minutes. That’s just the kind of burden he has as a superstar, especially when they are facing a sound and highly efficient offense like Denver.

Simply put, zero free throws won’t cut it the rest of this series, and Jimmy Butler knows it.

2. Max Strus

Max Strus had a brutal outing in Game 1. The 27-year-old laid a goose egg in the Finals opener and bricked all 10 of his shots from the field, nine of which came from beyond the arc. Seven of those looks were either wide open or with little resistance from the Denver defense.

This may have been a different game had Strus connected on at least three of those looks. But nonetheless, the Heat must be relatively happy with the shots they were able to generate for Strus, who has shot 35.9 percent from deep prior to the NBA Finals.

Strus should quickly forget about his Game 1 shooting struggles. Those shots will fall, as long as he gets similar looks the rest of the series.

3. Caleb Martin

Caleb Martin entered the NBA Finals with a lot of shine, and with good reason. He had a scintillating performance in Game 7 on the road against the Boston Celtics. Unfortunately for Miami, that did not carry over in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. Martin had a forgettable Finals debut, finishing with just three points on 1-of-7 shooting from the field.

Denver’s size clearly bothered Martin as he was blocked on a couple of his strong drives to the rim. Nonetheless, he did get a couple of open looks that he would have made had this been a Game 7 in Boston.

The Heat can just chalk this up as a bad shooting night from the 6-foot-5 guard. The Heat will need him to remain aggressive and in attack mode to win this series.

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Heat star Jimmy Butler delivers strong message to team after deflating Game 1 loss vs. Nuggets

After winning all three of their previous Game 1 encounters in the NBA Playoffs, the Miami Heat finally lost the series opener for the first time on Thursday against Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. Jimmy Butler and Co. weren’t really able to get themselves going in this one, and it resulted in a lopsided win for the home team, 104-93.

In spite of the deflating loss, however, Jimmy Butler remains unfazed. The Heat talisman delivered a strong message to his teammates after their Game 1 defeat as they now look to bounce back on Sunday night:

“I’m always gonna pass the ball to my teammates,” Butler said, via NBA beat reporter Tomer Azarly of ClutchPoints. “I have so much belief and faith in them that they’re going to take and make shots. If they can’t they’re gonna make the next play. That’s how we played all year long, that’s not gonna change now that we’re in the Finals.”

It’s on to the next one for Butler and the Heat. It was an undeniably tough loss for them in Game 1, but this series is far from over. Butler remains extremely confident in himself and his teammates, and this isn’t going to change anytime soon.

For his part, though, Butler knows that he will need to be much better in Game 2. He is well aware of his shortcomings in the series opener, and since this is Jimmy Butler we’re talking about here, it would be a surprise if he doesn’t come out with a bounce-back performance on Sunday night:

“Maybe I gotta be a little more aggressive,” Butler said. “I gotta put pressure on the rim. Me with no free throws, that was all on myself. Nobody else. We’re gonna correct than next game, but only I can do that.”

Game 2 cannot come soon enough. It goes without saying that this contest will have major repercussions on the rest of the series for both teams. The Nuggets, though, are now just three wins away from their first-ever NBA title.

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Heat news: Jimmy Butler gets real on Miami mistake that led to stalled Game 1 offense

Jimmy Butler and the Miami Heat got ripped apart by Denver Nuggets in a 104-93 loss in Game 1. Expected by many to carry the Heat, Butler mustered just 13 points on a poor 6-for-14 shooting from the field. Even worse was the fact that he failed to make a single trip to the foul line, where he usually gets a bunch of his points in the playoffs.

Butler pointed that out in the postgame press conference as a reason for Miami’s downfall in the series opener.

“Probably because we shot a lot of jumpshots, myself probably leading that pack, instead of putting pressure on the rim, getting lay-ups, getting to the free throw line. When you look at it during the game, they all look like the right shots,” Jimmy Butler said when asked about why the Heat struggled to find their groove offensively.

Butler settled for pull-ups and jumpers most of the time in the game, but his shots just weren’t falling, as he was being covered by bigger and longer defenders like Aaron Gordon.

“And I’m not saying that we can’t as a team make those, but got to get more layups, got to get more free throws. And whenever you miss and don’t get back, the game gets out of hand kind of quickly. We gave up too many lay-ups which we also can’t have happen. But that’s it as a whole. We’ve got to attack the rim a lot more, myself included,” Butler added.

In retrospect, Jimmy Butler knew that he should have attacked the rim more to get fouls and earn some points off free-throw attempts. Butler entered Game 1 of the 2023 NBA Finals with 25 percent of his points coming from the foul line. The Heat, as a whole, got 14.6 percent of their scoring output off free throws and attempt 20 per game, but only had two such shots in Game 1, courtesy of a reliever in Haywood Highsmith.

The Heat surely will make big adjustments in Game 2 on Sunday.

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Heat star Jimmy Butler haters on full blast after brutal Game 1 vs. Nuggets

Jimmy Butler was a no-show in the opening game of the NBA Finals on Thursday night. The Miami Heat needed their talisman to be at his best against Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets, but unfortunately for Miami supporters, Butler came up way short in Game 1. Unsurprisingly, the Nuggets took control of the contest from the get-go, en route to a dominant 104-93 win for the home team.

It also comes as no surprise that the Jimmy Butler hate train is now on full throttle after his poor showing in the series opener. It seems like the naysayers were already prepared to fire their shots at Butler even before the game started. As soon as it was over, it was an absolute hate fest on the means streets of Twitter:

They went full savage on Jimmy, and in truth, it isn’t a complete surprise that the haters were loud and proud after that forgettable performance. In arguably their biggest game of the season thus far, Jimmy fell flat, finishing with just 13 points on 6-of-14 shooting. He did not attempt a single free throw in this one, and he went just 1-of-2 from distance. The six-time All-Star did log seven rebounds, seven assists, a steal, and a block to salvage his line, but in the end, it clearly wasn’t enough against the Nuggets.

Knowing Butler, all this noise is only going to motivate him ahead of Game 2. The Heat have thrived as the underdogs and at this point, they have no other choice but to do so yet again for the rest of this series.

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‘Not all rings weigh the same.’ Nick Wright drops bold Heat, Jimmy Butler title take

This isn’t the first time Jimmy Butler has shown us that, come the postseason, he’s an entirely different player. But according to Nick Wright, if he can lead his Miami Heat to a championship against the Denver Nuggets in the upcoming NBA Finals, his standing in the league will go up a whole lot more.

Speaking on Fox Sports 1’s First Things First, Wright discussed his “Player Pyramid,” which highlights who he believes to be the top ten players since the 20034 draft. Sitting atop the pyramid is LeBron James; on the next level are Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant; on the third tier are Giannis Antetokounmpo, Dwyane Wade and Chris Paul; while rounding things out are Nikola Jokic, Russell Westbrook, Kawhi Leonard and James Harden.

But that pyramid is far from set in stone. Prior to Game 1 of the NBA Finals, Wright said: “If Jimmy Butler wins this title, he’ll replace James Harden as one of the 10 best guys to come into the league in the last 20 years. All rings don’t weigh the same. This would be a heavy ring.”

It’s a significant claim considering that Butler probably wouldn’t be in the conversation if this was based on regular season performance, but it’s also something that it’s hard to disagree with. Already, he’s led his Heat to the NBA Finals in 2020, was one shot away from doing the same in 2022, and now the NBA Finals in 2023 as the number eight seed. The legend of playoff Jimmy Butler continues to grow, and if he can somehow lead his crew of unheralded teammates to a championship against one of the most complete offensive sides we’ve seen in recent memory, it’s hard to argue with Nick Wright’s take.

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Kendrick Perkins’ fiery Game 1 NBA Finals take will have Heat fans hyped

The Miami Heat have endured devastating injuries and a grueling gauntlet through the Eastern Conference to earn their spot in the 2023 NBA Finals. Many would argue the No. 8 seed are the most unlikely team to reach the championship round. There was just too much going against them to reasonably survive this long. Surely, they will run out of gas against the Denver Nuggets, right?

The Heat have come face to with that type of public skepticism for a month-and-a-half now, so they are prepared for it in this ultimate series. Actually, Kendrick Perkins believes they thrive off it and will again shatter expectations Game 1 Thursday night in Denver.

“The Miami Heat are approaching the Game 1s like it’s Game 7 and that’s why I’m picking the Miami Heat tonight to win,” the 2008 NBA Champion and current ESPN analyst predicted on NBA Today, per ClutchPoints.

Perkins raises a strong point about the team’s fearless mentality. It is one that has been established by Heat president Pat Riley and head coach Erik Spoelstra, and exemplified by Jimmy Butler, Caleb Martin and the rest of the roster during these playoffs.

Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets pose all kind of potential matchup problems with their size and deft ball movement. However, the Milwaukee Bucks, New York Knicks and Boston Celtics were all either bigger, more talented or both, and are all sitting at home still trying to decipher the cause of their demise.

To this point, the formula has been a combination of great coaching and adjustment-making, role players like Caleb Martin and Gabe Vincent rising to the occasion and an unrelenting physicality and grit used to grind opponents down. That is a lot that has to slide into place, but so far it has worked beautifully.

They may be underdogs, but nothing the Heat accomplish in the NBA Finals should shock anyone after this momentous run.

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Chris Broussard’s Jimmy Butler-NBA Finals take will raise LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo’s eyebrows

As the NBA Finals gets underway, it’s time for the league’s pundits and experts to make predictions. In most cases, it will be a prediction on the outcome of the series between the Miami Heat and the Denver Nuggets. In other cases, it may be about which player comes away with the series MVP honor, but in the case of Jimmy Butler, the prediction from Chris Broussard is that he will join LeBron James and Steph Curry as one of the primary faces of the NBA if the Heat is victorious.

Broussard’s prediction had as much to do with Butler’s personality as it does with his talent and his leadership. The point is that both James and Curry are older, established players and they have been key league faces for years. There needs to be some new blood at the top of the list to join those two, and a victory by the Heat should ensure that Butler will join them.

Butler has led the Heat from the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference to three major upset victories during the NBA playoffs. The Heat defeated the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks in 5 games, the New York Knicks in 6 games and the Boston Celtics in 7 games.

Jimmy Butler gave the Heat spectacular leadership throughout the playoffs, and after his team lost 3 games in a row to the Celtics that forced a 7th game in the series, he calmly told the media and his teammates that they would win Game 7 in Boston without any hesitation.

He came through with 28 points, and his dependability factor clinched the win for the Heat. As a result, he may be able to serve as an excellent front man for the league.

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Nuggets-Heat NBA Finals: Biggest must-watch storylines in historic showdown

We are finally on the doorstep of the 2023 NBA Finals — a historic showdown between the Denver Nuggets and the Miami Heat. This is the first time ever that the Nuggets and the Heat are squaring off in the Finals. Yet, the two had such contrasting journeys on their way to the Finals.

The Nuggets were essentially expected to be here. Denver finished as the No. 1 seed in the West. They dominated whoever was on their path to the Finals. They defeated the Minnesota Timberwolves in a convincing five-game series in round one and then took down Kevin Durant, Devin Booker, and the Phoenix Suns in the conference semi-finals. Then, Nikola Jokic and co. capped off their path-to-the-Finals journey by sweeping LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Finals.

The Heat, meanwhile, were not. Nobody anticipated an 8th seed to go all the way to the Finals. But they did it. And they faced the toughest of roads to get there. Miami shocked the world and took down the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks in the first round, then beat the No. 5-seeded New York Knicks in the next. They went up 3-0 over the heavily-favored Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals but came so close to the most massive collapse in NBA history when Boston won three straight and brought the series back to Boston for a Game 7. Yet, Jimmy Butler and Co. overcame perhaps the most pressurized game in Heat history with that Game 7 win to book their ticket versus Denver.

This year’s Finals certainly have the ingredients to be an epic showdown. With that said, here are the biggest must-watch storylines for the Nuggets-Heat NBA Finals.

1. Unfinished business from that incident

We have to start it off with this one. Denver and Miami have some unfinished business from the Jokic-Markieff Morris incident in 2021. For context, the two-time MVP didn’t particularly like Morris giving him a forearm shiver foul during a game. The Serbian center retaliated and shoved Morris from behind. This actually forced Morris out of action for several months due to a neck injury.

This led to a fracas on the court between the Nuggets and the Heat. It eventually gave birth to this classic photo of the Heat players waiting for Jokic outside the Nuggets locker room.

That incident even led to more drama and even involved Jokic’s brothers. The Jokic twins made a social media account to troll the Heat and even made the trip to Miami in their next regular season matchup that season.

While we love the Never Boring Association, Jimmy Butler recently confirmed he doesn’t have any beef with The Joker. But we’ll see if there are any lingering effects from that altercation between the Nuggets and the Heat when Game 1 tips off Thursday night.

2. So much history if either team wins

By all accounts, this is going to be a historic championship if either team wins. Legacies will also be elevated on both sides.

The Nuggets have already made history with their first Finals appearance and a championship would end Denver’s quest for its first title since it entered the NBA in 1976.

Meanwhile, a Heat win would make them the first 8th seed to win a championship. Like Denver, Miami’s run to the Finals is already historic. They became just the second 8th seed to make the Finals.

3. The two MVP’s of the playoffs are facing off

There is no question that Nikola Jokic and Jimmy Butler are the two MVPs of this postseason.

Jokic is averaging nearly 30 points a game in these playoffs to go along with 13 rebounds and 10 assists while shooting nearly 54 percent from the field and 47 percent from beyond the arc. Those are insane numbers to put up, especially with the type of defensive coverage other teams are putting up against him.

Meanwhile, Butler was a house on fire to start the postseason when his 56-point masterclass in Game 4 and similarly epic 42-point explosion in Game 5 of the Bucks series ended the East’s top seed in five games. He then led Miami to three straight wins to open the Eastern Conference Finals. Though he slowed down a bit when Boston rattled off three consecutive wins to force a Game 7, Butler did bounce back with 28 points to lead the Heat in the decider.

Both superstars have been nothing short of spectacular in the postseason.

4. How do the Heat slow down Nikola Jokic?

If we’re being real, there’s no way Miami can stop Nikola Jokic. Anthony Davis and the Lakers couldn’t even get a game off him this postseason. Bam Adebayo will unfortunately have the daunting task of trying to slow down the two-time MVP. Throughout his career, Jokic has averaged 22.2 points, 11.6 rebounds, and 6.8 assists in 12 games against Adebayo. Since his MVP season in 2021, Jokic has recorded three triple-doubles, including one this season, against the Heat center.

It’s safe to say that Adebayo alone won’t be able to stop Joker. It will be interesting to see what kind of defensive schemes the Heat come up with against the two-time MVP. Miami could look to double Jokic, or give him different looks on the defensive side of the floor. Perhaps Miami will utilize Kevin Love to matchup with Jokic to make Adebayo a free roamer on defense, much like the Lakers did with Anthony Davis.

5. How do the Nuggets slow down Playoff Jimmy Butler?

On the other side, how does Denver slow down Playoff Jimmy Butler. Looking at their roster, the Nuggets have a lot more bodies to throw at Butler. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope should get the first crack at Butler. While KCP is a terrific on-ball defender, the Heat superstar has a clear size advantage over him and will look to take him down on the block.

Denver could also put Aaron Gordon on Butler. The burly 6-foot-8 Gordon, meanwhile, has the edge in size over Butler, but the Marquette standout will have the quickness advantage and could simply beat him at the rim, where the Nuggets don’t have much resistance as Jokic isn’t much of a rim protector.

The Nuggets could force the ball out of Butler’s hands by bringing in early double-teams and making him more of a playmaker. Butler has shown some tendency to be passive at times and rely too much on his teammates, just as we saw in glimpses during the Eastern Conference Finals.

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