It took 10 tries, but the opposing team finally made it to the mile-high mountain.
Through nine games and three postseason rounds going into the final game on Sunday 2, the Nuggets have yet to lose a playoff game in Denver. as not. The top seed in the West, they took advantage of their home court—the best in the sport—to take the lead against the Timberwolves, Suns, and Lakers, and they pulled off a Game 1 win against the Heat. Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray and all the Nuggets players are special – but Denver’s height has been their unique added advantage in this playoffs.
But if any team wants to overcome that shortcoming, well, of course it would be the Miami Heat, who have already smashed several infamous hurdles this spring. The eighth-seeded Heat upset no. 1 nor. 2 seeds, clinching both chains down the road; Of course they wouldn’t be afraid of the competition in Denver.
Coach Erik Spoelstra: “If Denver wants to walk Mount Everest, we’ll do it” He said before the series begins.
And in Game 2, his team backed up that bravado with Denver’s first road win all postseason. The Heat rose from a 15-point deficit in the second quarter and an eight-point deficit entering the fourth to steal a 111-108 victory. Now, the Finals are back in Miami with a tie at one game, and more importantly, the 1 vs. 8 Finals is a really competitive series.
With two days of rest between nearly every game in the Finals (only Games 3 and 4 are separated by a day), Spoelstra and Michael Malone have plenty of opportunities to interact and adapt each other’s strategies. Spoelstra’s fiddling before Game 2 was most evident on the defensive end, as the Heat adopted a more physical approach and kept the Non-Jokic Nuggets in check.
This adjustment meant that Jokic, of course, scored more points in Game 2: 41, versus 27 in Game 1. However, the triple-double artist only collected four assists in Game 2 after shooting 14 in Game 1. He was Solo Effort – Until the middle of the fourth quarter, none of his teammates had cleared even 10 points in the game.
Jamal Murray finished with 18, thanks to a few three-pointers, but didn’t make nearly the same impact as he did in Game 1, when he tallied 26 points and 10 assists. In Game 2, Butler defended Murray much more – thanks to Spoelstra’s decision to put Kevin Love back in the starting lineup, allowing Love to guard Aaron Gordon and allowing Butler to switch to the more dangerous Murray.
Love had fallen out of the starting lineup and out of the rotation in the Eastern Conference Finals because the slower big man couldn’t stand up to the creatives surrounding Boston. But the playoffs are about matches, and Love can guard Gordon in greater quantities than his smaller Heat teammates. His presence helped reduce the size advantage Denver used to such great effect in Game 1; The Heat was 18 minutes over Love’s 22 minutes on Sunday.
Even with this modification, the Nuggets recorded a prolific clip in Game 2; His 126 points per 100 possessions, according to Glass Cleaning, was above the overall postseason average and well above Game 1 efficiency. But the Heat responded in kind as Spoelstra implemented the critical “make more shots” adjustment after the Heat sank just 33 percent. of their 3-point attempts in their Game 1 loss. (And even that number overhypes the impact of Miami’s shooting in Game 1; a number of his products came when the game was already out of control in the fourth quarter).
In Game 2, the Heat made 17 of their 35 3-point attempts, which is a 49 percent game percentage. Now, six of the 11 highest single-game 3-point percentages this postseason belong to Miami, which deserves to be repeated for the umpteenth time, as it finished a distant 27th in 3-point percentage in the regular season and is now just missing the top spot. Shooter (Tyler Hero) due to injury. The Heat are 6-0 in those games.
Highest 3-point percentage in a single game in the postseason
|a team||Discount||3P%||a result|
|a team||Discount||3P%||a result|
|Lakers||the Warriors||50.0%||W 122-101|
|the Warriors||Lakers||50.0%||W 127-100|
Some of Miami’s offensive success in Game 2 stemmed from a return to form after an offbeat Game 1 in the Finals. Notably, Max Strus laid a goose egg in Game 1, missing all 10 of his shot attempts (nine from deep), but rebounded with 4 of 3 points in the first quarter of Game 2.
Strus didn’t hit any other 3s the rest of the night, but his hot start presaged a solid night from deep for the rest of Miami’s roster. Love and Butler each hit a pair of 3s. So did Kyle Lowry and Duncan Robinson on the bench. Gabe Vincent, on his way to a huge paycheck in free agency this summer, had four 3-pointers and led the Heat with 23 points.
Thus, the profitable Miami player roulette game continues. Caleb Martin was a champion in the Eastern Conference Finals. He has six points in two Finals games as he returns to the bench – but other players have stepped up in his place.
The Nuggets also paved the way for more Heat points through defensive incidents, resulting in a few wide open shooting runs. Simultaneously blaming Denver’s defensemen for miscommunication and adopting Miami’s offensive system for fomenting confusion. Something particularly magical showed up early in the fourth quarter as Robinson’s rally from the home team led to the visitors.
When Bam Adebayo caught the ball near the top of the corkscrew, Robinson swooped in from Vincent’s screen into the left corner. On Miami’s final three possessions going into this play, Robinson had connected on a pair of 3-pointers and a driving layup, so Denver was reasonably worried about cutting him off, and both Bruce Brown and Christian Brown stuck with him. The result was Vincent opening 3 to give Miami the lead.
On the next possession, Miami ran the same counting move into the corner—but this time, having learned their lesson, the Nuggets held one defense with Vincent and just sent the Browns to chase Robinson. But the rookie was a slow step-navigating pick, giving Adebayo an easy pass to the cut Robinson to throw the ball. A notable average mug ensued.
Note the passer in both sets, because Adebayo was phenomenal from both ends in Game 2, especially since he traded fewer shots (14 tries in Game 2, vs. 25 in Game 1) for more facilities. The Nuggets have yet to figure out how to combat Adebayo’s playmaking from the high position – which is ironic, given how much they rely on Jokic to do the same for them – and the Heat seemed to generate good looks whenever their position served as the linchpin of their attack.
This means, of course, that it’s Malone’s turn to adapt, and it’s time for the Nuggets to show they can steal a win on the road, too. But they are now Need to win away from home, whereas before it was possible to win the title simply by remaining unbeaten in Denver. The Heat ruined that plan – as they have so often against many other favorites throughout this magical postseason.
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