The Miami Heat got the fourth-quarter momentum they needed to rally and beat the Denver Nuggets, 111-108, in Game 2 of the NBA Finals on Sunday night.
The Heat went on a 17-4 run to start the fourth quarter, regaining the lead, but the Nuggets were able to use an 11-2 run to get within three points of the Heat with less than 90 seconds left.
The Heat were able to avoid desperation mode, however, as Jimmy Butler closed out Jamal Murray’s step-back 3-pointer that would have sent the game into overtime at the final buzzer.
Murray’s shot was short, hitting the front rim at zero time, just like Miami wanted.
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Making a game go your way on the road is always a hit in the playoffs, and one of the main reasons it came up was to make the three ball.
Miami, which leads all playoff teams in three-point percentage this postseason, struggled in Game 1 of the Finals, especially from Max Strus and Gabe Vincent, who previously thrived beyond the arc.
Strus was 0-for-10 from the field, including nine missed 3-pointers, in Game 1. But, as the saying goes, shooters shoot.
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Strus hit four 3-pointers in the first quarter to get Miami off to a hot start (they won the quarter 26-23). He would miss his next six tries from deep, but the Heat needed that production.
Vincent was even better, going 4-for-6 on three and 8-for-12 overall for a team-high 23 points with three assists and two steals for the Heat.
Butler came at a critical moment in the fourth quarter, commonplace these days, as he finished 7-of-19 for 21 points with nine assists and four rebounds. Bam Adebayo also chipped in with 21 points on 8-of-14 shooting from the field, adding a perfect 5-of-5 from the charity line.
As a team, the Heat shot 48.6% from three, which is the recipe for success when it comes to beating the Nuggets.
On the Denver side, Nikola Jokic didn’t have a triple-double like he did in Game 1, but he scored 41 points on 16-of-28 to lead the game in that category. He had 11 rebounds to make it a double-double, but just four assists as he took the score into his own hands Sunday night.
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It was strange to see Murray to just 18 points considering how he’s performed in these playoffs: He’s averaged 27 points a night since entering Game 2. He scored 18 points on 7-of-15 shooting from the field (3-of-8 from three).
Aaron Gordon provided 12 points and seven rebounds, while Bruce Brown came off the bench with 11 points on 4-of-9 shooting.
With this loss, Denver conceded its first home playoff game.
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Game 3 will take place in Miami on Wednesday with a scheduled start at 8:30 p.m.