The Denver Nuggets entered the NBA Finals coming off a sweep of the Los Angeles Lakers in which they looked like the superior team for nearly every second of the series. The Miami Heat, on the other hand, entered the finals saving themselves from the greatest postseason collapse by defeating Boston in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. The prevailing thought was not whether would Denver win the NBA Finals, but rather how many games it would take. After Denver’s 104-93 win in Game 1, it appeared the remaining games would be just a formality to crowning the Nuggets NBA champions.
However, the Miami Heat, as they have shown many times over the postseason, showed heart and persistence in getting a 111-108 win over the Denver Nuggets, snatching home-court advantage from the heavy favorites and tying the series at a game apiece.
The Heat came out firing on all cylinders, particularly Max Struss. The Heat sharpshooter was horrendous in Game 1, shooting 0-10 and not scoring a single point but bounced back, and was better in the opening 12 minutes than in the entirety of Game 1, shooting 4-7 from downtown and scoring 12 points. Even with the efficient shooting from Miami, the Heat only lead 26-23 at the end of a quarter of play.
The Nuggets began to seemingly grab control of the game in the second quarter, outscoring the Heat 34-25 in the period to take a 57-51 lead into the half. Denver looked to secure their grasp on the contest into the third quarter; Nikola Jokić was dominant, scoring 18 points in the frame. Denver took an 83-75 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Duncan Robinson scored 8 points in the first 70 seconds of the fourth quarter to trim the Denver lead to a bucket at 85-83. The Heat took an 86-85 lead on Gabe Vincent’s fourth hit from downtown on the evening. Miami built the lead to as much as 12 points at 107-95 and hung on to win by 3 points, 111-108, as Murray’s game-trying three-point attempt was no good.
Nikola Jokić was a dominant scorer, pouring in 41 points and also grabbing 11 rebounds, but only had four assists.
The adjustment by Eric Spoelstra and the Heat to implement the zone defense more seemed to have a deleterious effect on Jamal Murray, who only had 18 points, limiting his ability to get into the pick-and-roll game in which he is so effective.
Gabe Vincent led the Heat in scoring with 23 points. Bam Adebayo was very good with 21 points and 9 rebounds. Jimmy Butler put in 21 points including key points down the stretch as the Nuggets were making their last-minute run. Max Struss added 14 points of his own.
The Finals now shift to Miami and the Nuggets will have to figure out how to solve the Heat’s zone defense.