After watching a fourth-quarter lead evaporate in Game 2, the Denver Nuggets arrived in Miami for Game 3 of the NBA Finals, looking to reclaim home-court advantage over the Heat.
However, after Nikola Jokic carried the goal charge in that game with little help, he got the support he needed from co-star Jamal Murray in Game 3. Murray had 20 of his 34 points in first half, as he went out on a mission to quickly erase the memory of a tough shooting night, going to work in the two-man game with Jokic (who scored a double-double in the first half) .
The second half was quieter for Murray (until the end of the fourth as he helped Denver to the win), but Jokic took over as he went to work early and often, accumulating statistics, calming the conversation on whether Miami understood something by trying to turn him into a scorer. He attacked one-on-one matchups, bullying Miami’s smaller defenders into the paint, while feeding his teammates in the dribbling game and when doubles came his way. The result was the first 30-20-10 game in NBA Finals history (his third of the playoffs, with two more overall in NBA playoff history) and a 109-94 win. of the Denver Nuggets.
Nikola Jokic becomes the 1st player in NBA history with a game of 30 PTS, 20 REB, 10 AST in the final!
4 minutes to play in Game 3 on ABC pic.twitter.com/zQZD1FAsVc
—NBA (@NBA) June 8, 2023
Jokic (32 points, 21 rebounds, 10 assists) and Murray (34 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists) each notched a triple-double, making NBA history the first pair of teammates to do so in any which game, playoffs or regular season.
Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic are the first teammates in NBA history (regular season or playoffs) to each record a 30-point triple-double in the same game.
They are also the first teammates to each have 30 pts and 10 ast in the same playoff game since Clyde Drexler and Terry Porter in 1992. pic.twitter.com/d73oP0uiUe
— ESPN Stats and Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 8, 2023
Although they were spectacular, they didn’t have to do it completely alone on Wednesday as they got help from an unlikely source. While Michael Porter Jr. and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope still struggle to hit shots (8 points on 2-of-11 combined shooting), Christian Braun came off the bench and scored 15 on 7-of-8 shots, including the most came late in the third and early in the fourth quarter to help the Nuggets extend their lead to 21.
Along with Braun’s renewed energy off the bench on both sides, Aaron Gordon continued to give the Nuggets solid minutes with 11 points, 10 rebounds and five assists, doing a bit of everything. Denver still couldn’t find their three-point shooting touch, knocking down just 5 of 18 from deep in Game 3, but their inside dominance and ability to pick up the tempo in Game 3 was the difference. . The Heat made it interesting late, cutting the lead down to just nine, but could never pull out all the stops to really try and shake Denver up.
The biggest problem for Miami was cooling off from three, hitting just 11 of 35 from deep, and while Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo (50 points combined) were more aggressive early on the rim offense, they were not particularly effective (18 out of 35). -45 duo shooting). Denver’s defense did much better in the second half to limit communication breakdowns, which prevented Miami from getting as many wide open threes, and even when they had those looks, the Heat struggled to get them. to spill. That allowed Denver to avoid Miami’s misfires, which kept the Heat out of their zone and gave Murray and Jokic the chance to go to work in the two-man game, splitting the Heat with it.
Heading into Game 4, the most important thing for the Heat will again be knocking down shots both inside the paint and beyond the three-point line. They can’t shoot 37% from the field and stand a chance against this Nuggets team, especially because their misses are what fuel Denver’s offense when they can get out and run (especially since Miami doesn’t give Denver the revenue they need to do that otherwise). For the Nuggets, when they stay connected and communicate defensively, they are able to frustrate the Heat, but that needs to remain a point of attention as they got lost at points on the scouting action, always having trouble. trouble communicating switches and covers. Offensively, they’re hoping that at some point Porter Jr. and Caldwell-Pope wake up and join the series, because if they do, it’s hard to see how Miami can slow them down.