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HomeBasketballNBAAdjustments continue to lift Miami Heat, now tied 1-1 with Denver in...

Adjustments continue to lift Miami Heat, now tied 1-1 with Denver in the Finals

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The Miami Heat in their 111-108 win in Game 2 of the NBA Finals made the Denver Nuggets look mortal for the first time all postseason long.

The series is now tied 1-1 heading back to Miami, where the Heat are 6-2 at home in the postseason. The Nuggets, which finished under .500 on the road in the regular season, are 4-3 away from home this postseason. Sunday’s loss was Denver’s first at home in these playoffs.

Sunday night’s Heat win was a bit of an eye opener. Saying that feels disrespectful to Miami, which has shown all postseason long it can win in a variety of ways.

The Heat in Game 2 shot better than 48 percent on 3 pointers. Seven Miami players notched a made 3, and six hit multiple shots from deep. Several of the 17 3s Miami splashed on Sunday night were wide open looks.


The Heat, who shot only 34 percent from 3 during the regular season, were not going to have two bad shooting games in a row. Miami players outside of Jimmy Butler, who shot .368 from the floor, finished shooting .525 from the field. 

The Heat’s offensive approach saw the team force the issue much more than they did in Game 1. Miami shot 18-20 on free throws in Game 2, three days after the team set a playoff record with only two foul shot attempts. Duncan Robinson made his money by being a dead-eye shooter, but even he was getting shots at the basket on Sunday night.

Miami defensively continues to employ a variety of looks. The Heat on Sunday activated their 2-3 zone, and the plan stifled Denver at various points, particularly late in the game. Nuggets star Nikola Jokic even threw the ball away against the zone. Jokic on Sunday was very productive with 41 points, but he finished with a playoff-low four assists. It’s tough to say if Heat coach Erik Spoelstra wanted to make Jokic a scorer, but the approach severely hampered Denver’s approach in the halfcourt, limiting looks for other players. The majority of the 28 3s the Nuggets launched on Sunday came in transition.

Individually, Butler getting the assignment on Jamal Murray really paid dividends for Miami. Murray on Sunday finished with 18 points on 15 shots. The Nuggets standout added 10 assists, but had his lowest scoring output since scoring 19 points on May 9 in a Game 5 win over Phoenix in the West semis. Butler hounded Murray all night long, including on the last shot of the game. Dusting the cobwebs off Kevin Love was a smart move too. Love, who hadn’t seen the floor in a week and a half,  is a big body who can give Nuggets forward Aaron Gordon trouble in the post. Gordon in Game 1 feasted on matchups against smaller players. Love provided enough resistance that Gordon managed only 12 points on seven shot attempts. 

Credit Miami for its game plan and execution, but Denver didn’t help itself out.

The Nuggets scored eight points under their playoff average, but the team played fine offensively. Defense is a whole different story.

Denver left Miami players wide open from 3 all game long. Heat players got open on back cuts to the basket. 

Michael Porter Jr. was especially inept on Sunday night. Porter Jr., who if you go only on physical tools could be the best player in the world, had several defensive lapses on Sunday night. Porter was out of position all game long on defense, which I think played a role in him logging only 26 minutes after playing 43 minutes in Game 1. Teammates were visibly frustrated with Porter Jr., even if they didn’t show it verbally.

His coach did, though, even without saying Porter Jr.’s name.

  1. Denver in Wednesday’s Game 3 has to lock in on defense. Miami has gotten a number of open shots in both Finals games. The Nuggets have to do a better job of sticking to Miami’s shooters. Denver also has to communicate better to cut down on Miami’s cuts to the lane and basket.

Offensively, the Nuggets have to make shots. Jokic’s assist numbers were low, sure, but Denver got some good looks off those passes. 

It’s too early to say if Miami’s adjustments in Game 2 have swung the series, but with how the Heat has played this postseason, the Nuggets have to find the swagger they’ve played with to this point.

Miami has played with that same confidence the past six weeks. So who’s gonna step up and take control of the series? 

I can’t wait to find out.

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