DENVER — Nuggets rookie Christian Braun gets high praise from coach Michael Malone, and his star teammates Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray also rave about the rookie.
And praise from them is nice, for certain.
But it pales compared to praise from his mom.
Lisa Braun is part of a basketball family — a big-time one. She and her six siblings in the Sandbothe family, all of them All-State players who went to college on athletic scholarships, were inducted into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame together in 2019. She starred at Missouri, where she was a two-time All-Big Eight conference pick.
“Mom doesn’t give me constructive criticism at all,” said Braun, whose father also played the game in college. “Mom is more critical. It’s not constructive most of the time. She’ll throw it in there every once in a while, but mom is definitely the critical one of the bunch.”
Braun — the only rookie in Denver’s eight-man rotation right now in the NBA Finals — is looking to win championships in back-to-back seasons. He helped Kansas win the NCAA title in 2022.
The expectation around the Miami Heat has been that Tyler Herro will be ready to return at some point in the NBA Finals.
Whether that means Game 2 on Sunday, Game 3 on Wednesday or later remains unclear.
Herro broke his right hand in Game 1 of Round 1 against Milwaukee. He recovered from surgery and has been getting shots up for several days, ramping up toward a return — but if Heat coach Erik Spoelstra knows when Herro is coming back, he’s not tipping his hand.
“The status has not changed yet,” Spoelstra said Saturday. “I’m not trying to be elusive about that. … All we are focused on right now is his process, continuing to do work and get prepared. Whenever that timeline is, where he’s ready to go, I’ll let you know.”
Denver’s Jamal Murray has scored at least 25 points in six consecutive games, tying for the second-longest single-season streak in the Nuggets’ NBA playoff history.
Alex English scored at least 25 in 12 consecutive games during the 1985 playoffs. Spencer Haywood also had a 12-game streak for Denver in 1970, during the franchise’s ABA days.
Murray is one of three players with a six-game streak: Carmelo Anthony had one in 2009, and Nikola Jokic had one earlier in this year’s playoff run.
And if Jokic gets another triple-double in Game 2, he’d be just the third player in the last 60 years with one of those in back-to-back Finals games. Magic Johnson had two in a row in 1984; Wilt Chamberlain had two in a row in 1967.
These aren’t the run-and-gun, up-and-down, defense-be-damned Nuggets of the 1980s.
But this Denver team is on pace to set a scoring record anyway.
The Nuggets are up to 11,345 points this season. That puts them well within record of the team’s single-season mark — 11,671, set in 1984-85.
Miami has scored 11,287 points this season. That’s already a franchise record; during the Eastern Conference finals, the Heat topped their single-season mark of 10,898 set last year.
Depending on how long this series goes — and really, in a nod to the pace that today’s NBA game is played at — both teams have a shot at having one of the 10 highest-scoring seasons ever. The 1992-93 Phoenix Suns are the target there; their 11,813 points is No. 10 on the NBA’s all-time list.
The all-time NBA record for points in a season isn’t likely in jeopardy. Golden State scored 12,161 points in the 2018-19 season.
Regardless of how the rest of the NBA Finals go, the Eastern Conference had more success against the Western Conference this season than at any point in about a quarter-century.
East teams will finish with a winning record against West teams for the first time since 2008-09, when they went 232-223 (.510). This season, the East will win at least 52% of its games against the West for the first time in a normal season since 1997-98 — when they won 58% of the matchups against the other conference.
East teams are currently 236-215 against the West, even after Miami’s loss in Game 1 of the NBA Finals to the Nuggets. Miami is 20-11 against West foes so far this season; coincidentally, the Nuggets are 20-11 against the East.
The East also had a 53% win rate against the West in 1998-99, but the sides only faced off in 89 games because of a shortened season.
The conferences went 228-228 against each other last season. But from 1999-2000 through 2020-21, the West dominated — winning 56.5% of the games against the East.