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HomeBasketballNBANBA Finals Game 4 running diary: Nuggets dominate the Heat again, move...

NBA Finals Game 4 running diary: Nuggets dominate the Heat again, move closer to first title

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Friday night basketball!

I can’t remember the last night a Finals game was played on a Friday night. The schedule for a while now has been Sunday/Tuesday/Thursday. In the 90s, it ran Sunday/Wednesday/Friday.

This series has gone pretty much the way I thought it would. In Game 1, Denver won despite not playing very well. Miami got hot from 3 in Game 2 and pulled off an upset. Game 3 was the telling one. Miami was average from 3 and fell behind by as much as 23 and Denver won 109-94 to take a 2-1 lead.

The Nuggets got historic performances from Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray, as the duo became the first teammates in league history to record 30/10/10 triple doubles. Jokic, one of the absolute best players on the planet, recorded his third 30/20/10 playoff game.

The bigger story that was overshadowed by Jokic and Murray’s efforts is Denver’s effort on defense in Game 3. The Nuggets stifled the Heat, holding Miami to a little better than 37 percent shooting from the field. Jokic was especially good on D, challenging shots, taking Heat players off their path on drives. You could argue Game 3 was the best all-around game Jokic has ever played.

So now what?

Does Denver take total control of the series and give itself a chance to close things out on Monday? Can Miami find its stroke from 3? Because that’s the only chance the Heat has to win the series.

Let’s go to Game 4!

The diary will be updated following the end of each quarter.

First quarter

12:00: Interesting stat on Heat star Jimmy Butler: Butler hasn’t scored 30 points since Game 1 of the East Finals. He had a lot of help that series. That help hasn’t shown up yet in the Finals.

7:42: Bam Adebayo hits a little hook shot to tie the game at 7. Adebayo has taken half of the Heat’s eight shots so far tonight. 

6:45: Murray gets his first bucket of the night on a little floater off the glass. I’d be interested to see where people rank him among the best players in the league. The last two seasons he’s been healthy in the playoffs, Denver has gotten to at least the conference finals.

6:02: Jokic comes up gimpy off a scrum under the Denver basket. Looks like he turned his ankle after landing on the ankle of Heat guard Max Strus. Uh oh.

5:21: Murray drains a stepback 3 in Adebayo’s mug. Man, he’s good.

4:41: Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. starts 0-4 from the field after a missed layup. Denver coach Mike Malone yanks him. He’s been awful this series. His development will be the difference in Denver winning only one title or the Nuggets turning into a dynasty.

2:20: Bruce Brown nails a 3 to put Denver up 7. Brown has developed into one of the best off-the-bench players in the league. He was so valuable to Brooklyn in 2021 on a team I think wins the title if Kevin Durant’s shoe is a half size smaller. Brown fell out of the rotation a bit last season in Brooklyn, but has found a nice role in Denver.

1:14: Butler hits a shot of the glass to start 3-4 from the field. Good sign for Miami that Butler has started strong.

:41.3: Kyle Lowry drains a 3 off the glass in transition to tie the game at 18. Low-scoring game so far. This one is gonna be a grind.

0:00: Butler swishes a 3 from the left corner to give the Heat a 21-20 lead after 1. He’s 4-5 from the field. He’ll need to have a huge game in order for Miami to win. Butler shot at least 50 percent from the field in seven of the first eight Heat playoff games he played in. He’s hit that mark just once in the last 12 playoff games. 

Second quarter

10:13: Aaron Gordon rolls into the paint and hits a one-legged jump shot. Gordon has a quick five to start the second. Scoring has to come from somewhere with Jokic getting a rest.

9:07: Gordon follows up an Adebayo bank shot with a corner 3. Is this gonna be the Aaron Gordon game?

8:33: Sharpshooter Duncan Robinson hits a 3 for Miami to cut the Denver lead to 2. The Heat is just 4-12 from 3 to start, but they’ve been timely makes. Those shots win games.

6:57: Porter Jr. catches Kyle Lowry sleeping and gets an easy dunk off a back cut. Porter Jr’s ceiling is Tracy McGrady if he ever decides he wants to hit it.

5:26: Gordon gets a layup, and 1, to put Denver up 7. Gordon has a game-high 14 points on seven shots. He’s got 13 in the second quarter. It’s the Aaron Gordon game.

3:00: Stoppage in play and I see Chris Tucker and Forrest Whittaker sitting next to each other courtside. Why are they next to each other? I don’t think they’ve ever done a movie together. Do the teams just group all the rich people together so the normal people don’t bother them?

:57.6: Lowry bullies Murray in the paint and makes a short shot. The 37-year-old Lowry so far tonight has 13 points in 13 minutes. Is it the Kyle Lowry game?

:03.1: Butler misses two free throws and Denver goes into halftime up 55-51. Miami’s gotten strong contributions from Butler (14 points on 6-9 shooting, five assists), Adebayo (13 points), and Lowry (13 points, 6-6 from the free throw line). The Heat are shooting 52.6 percent from the field. When Miami has strong shooting games, it wins. Miami has held Murray in check (2-6 from the field) and the Denver bench hasn’t been a factor at all.

Third quarter

9:39: Porter Jr. gets another layup off a strong cut to the basket. He’s figuring out what he needs to do to be productive on offense.

7:35: Murray gets away from Butler and get a layup off a bounce pass from Gordon. Timeout Miami. The Nuggets now have their largest lead of the game at 10.

6:49: Kevin Love hits his second 3 in less than a minute to cut the Nuggets lead to six. The Lowry and Love contributions have been huge for the Heat.

5:52: Jokic dribbles into a double team in the paint and somehow finds Gordon for an oop. Jokic is unreal.

5:08: Murray hits a long 2 to give the Nuggets a 13 point lead. It feels like the Nuggets are gonna win this game by, like, five points.

3:44: Love battles for a rebound and keeps possession for the Heat. Miami’s old guys are all over the place tonight.

2:07: Adebayo gets calls for basket interference for hanging on the rim and pulling it out of place, causing an extended delay. What do you think the players talk about in situations like this? Do they talk strategy the whole time? Are they looking for fine women in the stands? 

1:15: Gordon gets a tip-in to hit 20 points on the night. The Aaron Gordon game.

1:03: Heat wing Caleb Martin looks like he’s finding his form. He hits a 27-foot 3 to give him 9 points.

:05.4: Aaron Gordon knocks down a 3 to put Denver up 13 at the end of three. Gordon now has a game-high 25 points. That ties his career playoff high, which he first set in 2019 with Orlando. The Nuggets are shooting 50 percent from the field. Butler in the third shot 1-4 and Lowry didn’t score after the strong first half. Denver is in control.

Fourth quarter

10:37: Robinson hits a 3 for Miami to cut the Denver lead to 10. Bruce Brown bit really hard on a pump fake. Why would anybody bite on a Robinson fake? He doesn’t wanna dribble!

9:24: Jokic picks up his fourth and fifth fouls in a span of 23 seconds. Both were tough calls. He’s gotta go to the bench. Denver is up 10. They should be able to tread water with Jokic out, but we’ll see.

8:42: Butler drives right at Murray on the left baseline for a layup, and 1. Denver calls timeout before the free throw. The Heat has outscored the Nuggets 7-0 so far in the fourth.

8:27: Murray drains a DEEP 3 to stop the bleeding for Denver. Nuggets holding on to an 8-point lead.

6:55: Gordon gets a bucket to set a career-playoff high with 27 points. Miami calls timeout with Denver up 8. When does Jokic come back in?

5:10: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope gets a strip on Butler right at the basket that leads to a Bruce Brown layup. Nuggets up 9. Denver is just a minus-1 without Jokic in this stretch.

4:09: Jokic is coming back in. Time for Denver to bring it home.

2:36: Bruce Brown just throws up a shot as he’s getting fouled and hit, and 1. Nuggets lead by 11 now. This one’s about over.

1:49: Brown gets to 18 points on a reverse lay-up to put Denver up 11. The Caldwell-Pope drops a 27-foot 3 in to give the Nuggets a 14-point cushion. Thanks for playing, Miami. All of this is happening while Jokic is stuck on four assists. This would be Denver’s first win in its last 10 games when Joker has four or fewer assists.

0:00: Denver holds Miami to under 100 points for the third time this series, as the Nuggets move to within one game of their first NBA title. Miami is 1-6 in these playoffs when it scores under 100 points. The Heat tonight again shot under 34 percent from 3.

The Nuggets since Game 2 have shown why they’ve been the best team all season. The Heat since that Game 2 win have reverted back to the team that was 25th in the league in offense in the regular season. It’s after midnight for the Heat.

Miami will fight on Monday. That’s their M.O. But it won’t be enough. The Heat have been a nice story, but they don’t have the firepower to hang with the Nuggets. 

Get the champagne ready.

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