We should know better than to count out the Miami Heat at this point.
Conventional wisdom said they were done after being blown out in Game 2 of their first-round series in Milwaukee after losing Tyler Herro. Then, there was no way they would beat the resurgent New York Knicks in the second round. After blowing a 3-0 lead, it was impossible that Boston would lose Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Finally, Miami searched for answers all throughout Game 1 of the NBA Finals and didn’t come up with any in a 106-95 loss.
Well, as head coach Erik Spoelstra has proven all playoffs: the Heat will figure things out. They did just that in the fourth quarter of Game 2. Entering the final period trailing by eight points, Miami outscored the favored Denver Nuggets 36-25 to win 111-108. As a result, these NBA Finals are tied 1-1. The Heat now own home-court advantage and play the next two games at Kaseya Center. Do the odds favor Miami for Heat vs. Nuggets Game 3? Read on to find out.
Round: NBA Finals
Date: Wednesday, June 7, 2023
Time: 8:30 p.m. on ABC
Location: Kaseya Center (Miami, Florida)
Nuggets vs. Heat Game 3 Best Odds
Denver Nuggets (53-29)
Even in the NBA Finals, it’s possible for a team to come out over-confident. Denver was held to a series-low 23 points in the first quarter on Sunday. Even though they trailed by just three and recovered by outscoring Miami by 11 points over the next two periods, the tone was set in the first. Head coach Mike Malone talked about it after the game.
Despite being outworked, the Nuggets nearly forced overtime, but Jamal Murray’s good look on a 3-point shot was off the mark just before the final buzzer sounded.
The result was a crack in the Nuggets’ armor, especially at Ball Arena. Denver entered Game 2 a perfect 10-0 at home in these playoffs and undefeated in their building since March 30. Denver faced adversity when tied 2-2 with Phoenix in the second round. Now, for the first time, they will play on the road when not leading a series.
In Game 1, Miami stopped all Nuggets players besides Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray. In Game 2, they stopped everyone but Jokic. The two-time MVP scored 41 points, but the rest of the team was contained to 18 or fewer points.
Jimmy Butler’s stats improved–21 points in Game 2 compared to 13 in Game 1. While it wasn’t the most impressive stat line from “Playoff Jimmy” this postseason, he was far more aggressive and drawing fouls. Butler didn’t take a free throw in Game 1 but was 5-for-5 in Game 2. The Heat leader’s T-shirt after Sunday’s win said it all.
Their defense also took away Jokic’s ability to create. While he scored 41 points, the Heat took away his options to distribute the ball. As a result, he was down from 11 assists in Game 1 to just four in Game 2 along with five turnovers.
On a historic note, Miami is the first 8-seed to win a road game in the NBA Finals. The only other 8-seed to reach this level was the 1999 New York Knicks, who won Game 3 of their series against San Antonio but lost in five games.
Expect the Nuggets to respond to both Malone’s dressing-down in the postgame press conference and their own expectations. But giving up games in the NBA FInals is risky business. While Denver may very well come back to win the series, it will be difficult to wrest the momentum away from the Heat in Game 3.
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