Despite the presence of Filipino-American mentor Erik Spoelstra, Filipino coaches still picked the Denver Nuggets over the Miami Heat in the National Basketball Association best-of-seven finals series starting Friday (Manila time) at the Ball Arena in Colorado.
College of Saint Benilde head coach Charles Tiu said the Nuggets have handsome chances, especially with two-time Most Valuable Player Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray reaching their peaks.
Tiu, who led the Blazers to the finals of the National Collegiate Athletic Association Season 98, said the Nuggets can wrap up the series in five or six games.
“Denver can win it in five to six games. The Nuggets are playing at such a high level right now. But tough to count out the heart of the Heat,” said Tiu, who also moonlights as a basketball analyst.
“Jokic figuring out how to beat the zone defense of the Heat, and the shooters of Denver need to continue to hit shots. If Murray plays the way he played last series they’ll be good.”
After finishing the regular season on top of the Western Conference with 53 wins and 29 losses, the Nuggets coasted in the playoffs to advance to the finals for the first time since joining the league in 1976.
They sent the Minnesota Timberwolves packing in the first round before taking down Kevin Durant and the dangerous Phoenix Suns in six games in the second round.
‘Denver can win it in five to six games.’
In the Western Conference finals, the Nuggets pulled off a shocker when they crushed the Los Angeles Lakers, prompting its superstar in LeBron James to float the idea of retiring.
Also rooting for the Nuggets is Gilas Women head coach Pat Aquino.
Aquino, who led the National University women’s team to a record 96 consecutive wins in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines, said the series will go the distance if the Heat will take Game 1.
“I’m more of the Denver Nuggets right now but I’d love to see Miami play defense against the Nuggets,” Aquino, one of the country’s brightest basketball minds, said.
“For me, it could go 4-2 for Denver but if Miami takes Game 1, it will be Game 7 for Denver.”
For University of Perpetual Help System Dalta head coach Myk Saguiguit, he isn’t giving up on the Heat, especially with how Spoelstra is mentoring the team.
After all, the Heat is on a roll after surviving the Atlanta Hawks and the Chicago Bulls in the play-in before shocking former MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round, New York Knicks in the second and the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals.
“I’m with Miami but I think this will be an even series between both teams,” Saguiguit said.
“Coach Spo (Spoelstra) handles his players in Miami well. No one is a star in his team and all the players he has have their roles defined.”