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Marquette In The 2023 NBA Playoffs: NBA Finals Edition

The #8 seeded Miami Heat are still alive and kicking, just four wins away from a championship.

NBA: Playoffs-Miami Heat at Boston Celtics David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Did we expect to be watching a Marquette guy in the NBA Finals this year? Big picture, yeah, probably. Did we expect it to be the two guys that we are getting to see involved in the series when the playoffs started? Prrrrrrrrrretty sure we can say that no one was expecting that to be the case, not even the hardest of hardcore fans of the team in question.

Let’s get right into it....

Jimmy Butler & Jamal Cain — Miami Heat

Well, it took a lot longer than expected, believe it or not, but Miami found a way past Boston in the Eastern Conference Finals. Sure, one doesn’t usually expect the #8 seed to “take longer than expected” to beat the #2 seed, but the fact of the matter is that the Heat were up three games to none against the Celtics. The series ended up going seven games, although Boston benefited from a miracle tip-in at the horn to win Game 6 and send things back to Massachusetts for Game 7. Miami won Game 7, 103-84, thanks to a 22-15 first quarter and a 27-18 fourth quarter. It was a 10 point game at the start of the fourth, but Miami scored the first seven points of the frame and never led by fewer than 15 the rest of the way.

Our guy Jimmy Butler was a big reason why Miami won that game as well as the entire series. He closed out the Celtics with a game high 28 points to go with seven rebounds, six assists, and three steals. Across all seven games, Butler chipped in 24.7 points, 7.6 rebounds, 6.1 assists, and 2.6 steals per game, with seemingly a lot of those steals coming 1) in crucial spots and 2) with Jimmy channeling his inner Ed Reed and jumping passing routes almost out of nowhere. Jamal Cain, thanks to his two-way contract status, won’t be playing in the Finals, but I’m sure it’s still cool as hell to be on the bench for it.

This is Jimmy Butler’s second Finals appearance since joining Miami before the 2019-20 season. The first time around, they went out in six games to the top seeded Los Angeles Lakers in the Walt Disney World bubble. This time, it will be the Western Conference’s top seed on the other side yet again, as the Denver Nuggets swept the Lakers in the conference finals on that side of the bracket. If we want to see a Marquette guy hoisting the trophy when the series is over, it’s going to require the Heat to slow down both Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic. Murray was Denver’s leading scorer in the conference finals, going for more than 32 points a game against Los Angeles. He also added 6.3 rebounds, 5.3 assists, and 2.8 steals, so it’s not like he’s just a shooter. Jokic, on the other hand, was being super Jokic-y in the WCF, averaging 27.8 points, 14.5 rebounds, 11.8 assists, plus a little over a steal and a block per game while the 6’11” Serbian shot — and this is not a joke — 47% from behind the three-point line.

Game 1: Thursday, June 1, 7:30pm Central, ABC
Game 2: Sunday, June 4, 7pm Central, ABC
Game 3: Wednesday, June 7, 7:30pm Central, ABC
Game 4: Friday, June 9, 7:30pm Central, ABC
Game 5: Monday, June 12, 7:30pm Central, ABC
Game 6*: Thursday, June 15, 7:30pm Central, ABC
Game 7*: Sunday, June 18, 7pm Central, ABC