Jamal Murray’s missed buzzer-beating, three-point shot decided the fate of Game 2 of the NBA Finals on Sunday.
With the Nuggets trailing by three points, Murray got a decent-enough look from downtown before Jimmy Butler contested the shot. Murray missed, allowing the Heat to spoil their perfect home record in this year’s playoffs, and level the series 1-1.
Nikola Jokic could not muster the resources to collect another triple double, but contributed a vital 41 points to the Nuggets’ tally.
While Jokic struck timely points, most of his teammates failed to do so, barring Jamal Murray’s two treys in the final quarter.
MIAMI HEAT’S ZONE DEFENSE
Erik Spoelstra was much more lenient with his ‘zone defense’ in the second game than the first.
The Heat tactfully switched the zone coverage between the perimeter and the paint to deny the shots. While Jokic did bulldoze his way through the system in the third quarter, scoring 18 points, the others did not.
Murray scored just 10 points in the first three quarters. Aaron Gordon was reduced to 12 points, while Michael Porter Jr could gather only five through the entire game.
The zone, much effectively applied in Game 2, also ensured that Jokic dished out only four assists in the entire ball game. The Nuggets are now 19-26 when Jokic manages less than 10 assists in a game.
SHOOTING ‘EM TREYS
A large part of Miami’s struggle in the opening game was due to its poor three-point shooting. On Sunday, that seemed like a bad dream.
The game started with Max Strus knocking down back-to-back threes to get a 10-2 advantage. He fired two more in the game. Kevin Love, too joined the party in the third quarter.
But the loudest applause headed Gabe Vincent’s way. Vincent, who missed out on the Eastern Conference Finals MVP award by a single vote, shot four-of-six from downtown on his way to a 23-point performance.
As a unit, the Heat shot 17-of-35 and outscored the Nuggets by 18 points from the region.
MIAMI BENCH FIRING IN CLUTCH TIME
The Nuggets led by six points at the interval. That was, for a major part, down to its bench scoring 20 points compared to the five from the Heat’s.
In the second half, the Heat bench produced 21 points to the Nuggets’ six. The turnaround was as remarkable as it was swift.
In the fourth quarter, Duncan Robinson stepped up and shot four-of-four field goals, including two threes. Kyle Lowry then knocked in another two field goals before a three-pointer from Caleb Martin.
16 points came from the Heat bench in the final 12 minutes while their counterparts could score only four - two apiece from Bruce Brown and Jeff Green.
With the series now square, a minimum of five games await us. The Nuggets would see their as loss an opportunity gone begging, given the side’s lead over a major part of the game.
They shot well from the paint, they converted the fast-break chances, and they had their best players score 40 points, yet a win eluded them.
It’s back to the drawing board for now for Michael Malone who felt that his team had “a lot of breakdowns’” in the game.
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