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There’s a lot going on in the NBA right now

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The Finals matchup is nearly set, the best player in the world is having an historic post-season, one of the all-time greats is contemplating retirement and a couple of Canadians are making headlines. Here’s what to know:

The Denver Nuggets advanced to their first NBA Finals.

Last night’s 113-111 victory gave Denver a stunning sweep of the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference title series and the first NBA Finals berth in franchise history.

The Nuggets’ playoff success isn’t exactly a shock. They’re the No. 1 seed in the West and they feature the world’s best player in Nikola Jokic, who probably would have won his third straight MVP award this season if not for voter fatigue. But a lot of pundits overlooked them, falling for flashier West contenders like Steph Curry’s defending-champion Warriors, Kevin Durant and Devin Booker’s Suns and even LeBron James’ seventh-seeded Lakers, who caught fire late in the season. Instead, it’s the brutally efficient Nuggets who are left standing after going a combined 12-3 in their series vs. Minnesota, Phoenix and the Lakers.

Denver’s opponent for the Finals could be decided tonight as the Miami Heat look to complete a sweep of the defending East champion Boston Celtics. Miami is the lowest-seeded team in the conference and was one win away from elimination in the play-in tournament, but fearless star Jimmy Butler has led them to the brink of another upset after shocking top seed Milwaukee in the first round.

Jokic is having a post-season for the ages.

One of the reasons people underestimate the Nuggets is that their MVP doesn’t, well, look like an MVP. Jokic is a 6-foot-11, 284-pound Serbian centre with a doughy physique, a no-nonsense buzz cut and a dour resting facial expression. At first glance, he conjures the type of lumbering big man that once roamed the NBA before the statistical revolution launched a thousand three-pointers a game.

Inside that bulky body, though, lives the spirit of a point guard. Jokic isn’t just the best-passing big man in the NBA. He’s the league’s best passer, period. And he can score and rebound with the best of them. In last night’s series clincher in L.A., Jokic racked up 30 points, 14 rebounds and 13 assists for his eighth triple-double of the playoffs. That broke the record set by Wilt Chamberlain in 1967, and Jokic is now averaging 29.9 points, 13.3 rebounds and 10.3 assists in this post-season. There’s simply never been a player quite like him.

Another Canadian sidekick is doing big things.

Similar to last year, when Andrew Wiggins emerged as the champion Warriors’ best player besides Steph Curry, Jamal Murray is playing a vital role for a title contender alongside Jokic. After a pair of 37-point performances against the Lakers, the 26-year-old guard from Kitchener, Ont., is averaging 27.7 points and 6.1 assists per game in the playoffs.

Murray is also burnishing his reputation as a playoff performer, first forged in the 2020 Disney bubble where he had a pair of 50-point games and two others with at least 40 to help Denver reach the final four. Murray’s next two seasons were ruined by a knee injury, but he’s been dynamite in his hard-won return to the playoffs.

LeBron James says he might walk away.

Following last night’s loss to Denver, a devastated LeBron told reporters he’s “got a lot to think about” regarding his future in basketball. He later clarified, according to ESPN, that he is indeed contemplating retiring. 

We can maybe chalk this up to LeBron being frustrated by the sweep and exhausted by an up-and-down season that saw him become the NBA’s all-time leading scorer as the Lakers struggled, only to find their groove late in the season. James has talked a lot about his dream of one day playing alongside his oldest son, so it would be a strange decision to walk away just as Bronny is about to enter his first season of college basketball.

The retirement threat could be a ploy to get the Lakers to go all in on upgrading their roster this summer, which would be classic LeBron. On the other hand, James is 38 now and has a lot of miles on his body after more than 1,400 regular-season games and 10 trips to the Finals. So the tank might finally be getting empty for one of the most indestructible athletes we’ve ever seen.

Canada’s greatest basketball player is in the running to coach its only NBA team.

According to reports yesterday, Steve Nash has met with the Toronto Raptors about their vacant head-coaching job. The two-time MVP has limited experience in the role, but he did compile a solid .584 winning percentage in his two-plus seasons with the Brooklyn Nets, where he had the unenviable task of managing moody stars Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant.

Meanwhile, Nick Nurse, who was fired by the Raptors last month but remains the head coach of Canada’s men’s national team, is reportedly one of three finalists to take over in Milwaukee. Giannis Antetokounmpo’s team had the best record in the league this season before getting upset by Miami in the first round, resulting in Mike Budenholzer being let go. Raptors assistant Adrian Griffin is reportedly a finalist for both the Milwaukee and Toronto jobs.

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