It was a popular topic before the NBA Finals began—about whether the Nuggets, an up-tempo team with fresh legs that could take advantage of the mile-highs in Denver, would have a good chance to take down the Miami Heat. .
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Combined fourth quarter scores of the first two games: Heat 66, Nuggets 45.
In Game 2 on Sunday, the Heat outscored the Nuggets by 11 to turn an eight-point deficit into a 111–108 win and tie the series at 1.
And any thought that the Heat couldn’t handle all of the perceived damage coming to Denver following a seven-game conference finals against the Celtics from a window like Denver’s home-court advantage in this series.
Nuggets coach Michael Malone bluntly criticized his team’s performance in the loss, saying, “It’s been two quarters, Game 1 and Game 2, where our defense has been non-existent.”
Game 3 is in Miami on Wednesday. By then Malone’s message may have been understood.
After Denver’s victory in Game 1, he gave an almost identical speech in the fourth quarter.
Hardly anyone cares. Denver won that game 11 _ it felt like Miami won the final quarter 30–20, or that Denver trimmed a 24-point lead to nine for all but 23 seconds late in the game, and More like garbage-time nitpicking than a major concern.
But the issues for that fourth quarter came to an end on Sunday.
Like Game 1, the Nuggets were lost on defensive switching, giving Miami dozens of open looks from 3-point range.
But in Game 1, the Heat went 13 for 39 from behind the arc, underscoring their troubles with Max Strauss, who went 0 for 9. In Game 2, Strauss made four of his first six 3’s and the Heat went 17 for 35.
This included a flurry of three 3-pointers from Duncan Robinson and Gabe Vincent as part of an early 15–2 run in the fourth. This gave Miami a 90–85 lead, which it would not retake after trailing by eight early in the period.
It is the seventh time Miami has trailed by double digits in the post season and come back to win, tying a record set by the league since 1998.
“We’ve got a lot of confidence as a group,” Robinson said. “And to be honest, we liked the flow of the game and how it was going.”
The Heat shot 68.8% from the field during the fourth quarter after shooting 43.5% in the first three.
In the final 12 minutes, Bam Adebayo made every shot he took (two field goals, three free throws), Robinson scored all 10 of his points and Jimmy Butler was on the money, making a 3-pointer and a three-pointer on the back. Made a game of Two-back possessions to help the Heat extend their three-point lead to seven.
“During the fourth quarter, our guys like to compete,” said Miami coach Erik Spoelstra. “They like to put themselves out there in those moments of truth.”
The message the Heat delivered in that fourth quarter — all of Game 2, in fact — was that the Nuggets, who came into the series heavily favored, are anything but inevitable champions, and that their best player, Nikola Jokic, can’t do it alone. .
Jokic scored 41 points in the loss, and Denver fell to 0-3 in this year’s playoffs, where Jokic scored 40-plus. He is also not responsible for guarding the perimeter. The Heat went 5 for 8 in the fourth, going 3 for 8.
In a sign of just how dangerous Denver can be, the Nuggets cut their own 12-point deficit to three, and Jamal Murray got a good look at a tying shot just before the buzzer. It turned out Heat players jumped off the bench and practically bounced off the court and stormed into the locker room victorious.
Nuggets – looking for answers. Neither they nor the thin air of Denver could spoil Miami.
“I think the height is too high,” Malone said. “They came out with a sense of desperation in the fourth quarter, and we couldn’t match that.”
© 2023 The Canadian Press