The Miami Heat benefited from a late finishing kick against the Denver Nuggets on Sunday to send the NBA Finals back to South Beach all square at one victory apiece.
Miami erased an eight-point deficit entering the fourth quarter and overcame a 41-point, 11-rebound performance from Nikola Jokic to record a 111-108 victory in Game 2 in Denver.
Gabe Vincent made 8 of 12 shot attempts from the floor — including 4 of 6 from 3-point range — as the Heat outscored the Nuggets by a 36-25 margin in the fourth quarter.
Vincent was asked on NBA TV’s postgame show if his teammates are upset about a perceived lack of respect in the series against Denver.
“I speak for my whole team when I say we don’t give a damn. We just want to get four wins,” Vincent said.
Bam Adebayo collected 21 points and nine rebounds and Jimmy Butler added 21 points and nine assists for Miami, which hosts Game 3 of the best-of-seven series on Wednesday.
“Our guys love to compete. They love to put themselves out there in those moments of truth,” Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said.
Denver’s Jamal Murray added 18 points and 10 assists, however, he saw his 3-point attempt with 1.9 seconds remaining hit the iron.
Aaron Gordon scored 12 points and Bruce Brown added 11 off the bench for the Nuggets, who fell to 9-1 at home in the playoffs.
“We didn’t want it to happen of course, but it happened, so we have to live with it,” Jokic said. “We’re going to Miami to play another game.”
While Jokic is looking ahead, Denver coach Michael Malone took issue with what he’s seen in the first two games of this series.
“Let’s talk about effort. I mean, this is the NBA Finals and we’re talking about effort. That’s a huge concern of mine,” Malone said. .”.. This is not the preseason or the regular season. This is the NBA Finals. And that to me is really, really perplexing, disappointing.”
Denver held an 83-75 lead through three quarters before Miami erupted for a 32-12 run over the first eight-plus minutes of the fourth. Duncan Robinson made a pair of treys and two layups and Butler converted a three-point play and 3-pointer to highlight the surge.
“Our defense has to be a helluva lot better,” Malone said. “That’s two games now where our fourth-quarter defense has been nonexistent.”
Murray drained two 3-pointers and Gordon also connected from beyond the arc to cut the Heat’s lead to 109-106 with 1:09 to play. Adebayo answered by making a pair of free throws and Jokic responded with a short jumper before Murray misfired on his game-tying attempt.
Kyle Lowry’s 3-pointer trimmed the Nuggets’ lead to 77-75 with 2:08 left in the third quarter before Jokic scored the final six points of the period.
Butler drained a floating jumper to stake Miami to a 21-10 lead and Max Strus answered a modest Denver run with his fourth 3-pointer to push his team’s advantage to 24-15 late in the first quarter. The Nuggets responded by scoring 35 of the game’s next 46 points, capped by Brown’s short jumper with 5:02 remaining in the first half.
Denver led 57-51 at the break.
–Field Level Media