The Nuggets or Heat Will Get a Trophy. But Will Either Get Respect?

“I guess nobody is really paying attention,” Spoelstra said, when asked why the team kept believing in itself even when it struggled. He added: “Whether that turns into confidence or not, sometimes you don’t have the confidence. But at least you have that experience of going through stuff and you understand how tough it is.”

The Heat beat the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks in the first round of the playoffs, and upset the Celtics in the conference finals, taking the decisive Game 7 on the road in Boston.

Even during that series, they showed why people had doubts. They raced out to a 3-0 series lead against Boston, which led to the Celtics treating themselves like underdogs. But then the Heat dropped three straight games as they turned the ball over and struggled offensively — what you might expect from an eighth seed against an experienced team like the Celtics, who went to the N.B.A. finals last season.

On the other hand, the Nuggets have held steady in their strengths — the all-around play of Nikola Jokic, who has won the Most Valuable Player Award twice; the dynamic scoring and passing of Murray; the fluid offense and hustle from role players like Aaron Gordon and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. They’ve been the best team in the West since December.

But even then, as Malone and Murray said, they felt much of the attention from the news media and basketball fans had been devoted to, well, everyone else. Like the Lakers.

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