Are they just better? Could be. Denver took Miami again last night and did it with great basketball and authority. They didn’t need a crazy match from Nikola Jokic, nor a stellar performance from Jamal Murray; As we have said on other occasions, the Nuggets’ game basically flows between all their men on the court and in Game 4 it was just what happened for them to take it 95-108, putting it 3-1 in the Finals of NBA and staying just one victory away from what would be the first ring in its history.
It cannot be said that Miami did not try. If there is one thing left over for Erik Spoelstra’s team, it is determination, no matter how bad the outlook is, but on this occasion the feeling they give is that it is not enough for them. Against Boston they were a constant hammer to which Jaylen Brown “complained” saying: “they are playing better than they are.” We don’t think it was like that, but it is true that against Colorado there is a gap behind Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo. Last night, without going any further, they added only two points between Gabe Vincent and Max Strus… Against the Nuggets that is unsustainable.
As for the development of the fourth game, the Heat had their moments, but the truth is that it seemed that the only one who could win was Denver. Michael Malone’s boys gritted their teeth in the second half and on several occasions achieved rents of more than 10 points. They had it under control, so much so that Nikola Jokic committed his fifth foul with 10 minutes remaining and that Miami could not take advantage of it more than to get within five points. The hint of a comeback came to nothing. Jamal Murray nailed a triple and gave the baton to a Bruce Brown who, even with the Serbian center already on the track, took responsibility to sentence the game and possibly the Finals.
“Today was a real team effort. I can’t even name a person. They were all in the movie. We need one more to achieve it, “says Jamal Murray who finished with 15 points and 12 assists, numbers that allowed him to become the first player to make his debut in a Finals, achieving four consecutive games with at least 10 assists.
The truth is that Murray is right in his words. Denver had a choral performance in which Aaron Gordon was the top scorer with 27 points, while Nikola Jokic signed a double-double of 23 points and 12 rebounds, and already from the bench Bruce Brown put another 21 points on the table. Yes, they were unstoppable for those from Florida.
Butler, Adebayo… and little else
Jimmy Butler had a complete game of 25 points, 7 rebounds and 7 assists, while Bam Adebayo had a double-double of 20 points and 11 rebounds. Both were good, but the accompaniment was beyond erratic. Zero points from Max Strus and two from Gabe Vincent is too big a hole for a team that needs to be close to perfection to beat the Nuggets. Such were the Heat’s problems, especially in the third quarter, that it had to be the appearance of Kevin Love (nine consecutive points) that kept them in the game.
Looking ahead to Game 5 they cannot afford another similar performance. If they raise their outside shooting (32% on 3-pointer last night) and take better care of the ball (16 turnovers to 7 by the Nuggets last night) they may have a chance. If they repeat performance, they will have no choice.
Spoelstra continues to trust
The Heat’s speech is not going to change at the last minute. Erik Spoelstra has been pointing out for months that they are always having to take the most difficult path and is confident that this time they can overcome it again. “We have an incredibly competitive group. We’ve done everything the hard way and that’s the way it’s going to have to be done right now, again. All we’re going to focus on is getting this back to Miami, and in that situation things can change very quickly,” he warns.
(Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images)
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