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Six Stories You Need to Know Before the NBA and NHL Finals Begin
This is, undoubtedly, one of the weirdest NBA and NHL Finals we’ve ever seen.
I’m no mathematician, but I would say the odds of two 8-seeds making it to the finals in both leagues, at the same time, from the same city, is a one-and-a-bajillion chance.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but something wild is going down in Florida. If the Heat and the Panthers somehow pull this off and bring the Stanley Cup and Larry O’Brien trophy to southern Florida (which has never happened at the same time before), then, the whole Reviews.org team is going to Disney World (surprise, Kenneth!).
Our editor could use a little vacation after witnessing the Utah Jazz not make it to the NBA Finals (or in this year’s case, the postseason altogether) for the 25th season in a row.
The Miami Heat are taking on the Denver Nuggets in the NBA Finals starting Thursday, June 1 and, if we’re lucky, the series can stretch to a Game 7 on Sunday, June 18. All the NBA Finals games will air on ABC.
The Florida Panthers face the Vegas Golden Knights in the Stanley Cup Final starting Saturday, June 3 and potentially ending with Game 7 on Monday, June 19.
But first, you'll want to know three NBA and three NHL stories before you shut out the rest of the world during the games.
NBA: Caleb Martin, Gabe Vincent, and the Miami Underdogs
This run by the Miami Heat might change the way we think about the NBA draft and the development of young talent. The Heat’s Caleb Martin, arguably the most consistent forward in a series that included Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, was basically out of the league a few years ago.
Martin averaged 19.3 points per game while shooting 60.2% from the field during the Celtics series and was the biggest reason why Celtics got sent home packing in a Game 7 on their homecourt.
Gabe Vincent, an undrafted guard, has been averaging 13.1 points so far in the playoffs and shooting nearly 40% from the three-point line. He was playing for the G-League affiliate Sioux Falls in South Dakota before fighting his way to South Beach. His ability to bomb threes from deep has been absolutely essential for the Miami Heat offense.
And don’t forget about Duncan Robinson, the guy who was riding the bench for basically the entire regular season. Since the Heat young star Tyler Herro went down with a hand injury, Robinson had to step in and stretch the court for the Heat. Let's, uh, just say it went pretty well.
NHL: First Stanley Cup for either team
Whether the Florida Panthers or the Vegas Golden Knights win the Stanley Cup, it would be the first Championship in team history.
This will be the second time both teams have made their way to the Stanley Cup Final—since 1996 for the Panthers and 2018 for the Knights.
Panthers fans, I know you're reeling over this! You’ve waited 17 long years for this moment, and of course, so have the Panthers. So the team is going to come into the Finals with a hunger.
And they’ve already started by sweeping the No. 2 Carolina Hurricanes to advance themselves into the Finals—and that was after knocking off the No. 1 Boston Bruins in Game 7 OT and the No. 4 Toronto Maple Leafs 4–1.
But the Knights. They’re the No. 1 seed of the Western Conference, and their strength hasn’t faltered.
Vegas beat the No. 8 Winnipeg Jets 4–1 and then 4–2 against the No. 3 Edmonton Oilers and No. 4 Dallas Stars.
I’d say the Panthers have faced tougher competition in the Eastern Conference than the Golden Knights in their respective Conference. But I realize I’m also a little biased because I’m rooting for the underdog.
NBA: Nikola Jokić is the best player in the NBA
If you’ve asked any avid NBA fan in the last couple of years who the best player in the NBA is, the correct answer has been Giannis Antetokounmpo. That is no longer the correct answer. Two-time MVP Nikola Jokić has taken complete control of the current GOAT conversation for the NBA with this finals run.
Currently, the Denver Nuggets are 8.5-point favorites against the Miami Heat, and that’s purely because Jokić makes everything work. Based on his dominance alone, I’m betting that the Nuggets sweep the Heat to win their first-ever NBA championship.
As a Lakers fan, I knew deep in my heart that this seemingly insane shot was going down for him:
The fact that it wasn’t surprising this shot went in is all you need to know about Jokić.
NHL: No. 8 seed to win the Cup for the second time?
The Florida Panthers entered the NHL playoffs as the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference.
So it’s no surprise that the Panthers were given a slim chance of making it to the Finals. But right now, the Knights are only slight favorites of taking the Stanley Cup from the Panthers.
The Knights and Panthers have played each other twice during the season, and each team won one game. But again, it’s hard for me not to believe the Panthers are going to come into these final games with fire, desire, and determination.
Only one other team in league history has won the Stanley Cup as a No. 8 seed: the Los Angeles Kings in 2012.
Could the Panthers be the second?
NBA: Jimmy Butler, Kingkiller
Everyone knows this is Nikola Jokić’s time to shine. Everyone, but Jimmy Butler. Jimmy has six All-Stars, an All-NBA Second Team, three All-NBA Third Teams, five NBA All-Defensive First Teams and a Most Improved Player award on his resume. He also had the single coolest quote I’ve ever heard from a conference championship ceremony:
My brain still thinks the Nuggets just have too much firepower for Jimmy & the gang to combat, but I will absolutely be rooting for the Heat.
NHL: Fastest a new team wins the Cup?
If the Golden Knights win the 2023 Stanley Cup, they would be the quickest team to win their first title following expansion.
The Knights became an expansion team in 2017 and have only played in the league for six seasons. Vegas would make history if they won the Cup this year. But, only this year.
The Philadelphia Fliers won their first title in the 70s after being in the NHL for seven seasons.
But William Karlsson, William Carrier, and Jonathan Marchessault have been waiting for this second chance since losing to the Washington Capitals in the 2018 Stanley Cup Final.
The Real Winners are Us
Having two 8-seeds in the Stanley Cup and NBA Finals is the stuff of dreams for sports fans.
Both the Heat and the Panthers scratched and clawed their way to the Finals and pulling off the upset would be legendary.
On the other hand, the Denver Nuggets and the Vegas Golden Knights have been taking care of business all season long, and could easily snuff out the dream. The first two games of the series will be the most important—the Heat and Panthers need to steal a game on the opposing team’s home court to win the series.
We can’t wait to get started.