With a win tonight, the Denver Nuggets will put themselves in a prime position to hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy. We’ll preview tonight’s game four before going over why I’ll be targeting another first-half play for this series.
You know a team has depth when their two stars can go for triple-doubles, and the big storyline after the game is a bench player scoring 15 points. Don’t get me wrong, Christian Braun deserves all the credit, and his second-half performance, especially, was crucial for the Nuggets to build and sustain their lead, but Jokic and Murray combined for 66 of the team's points and 20 of the team's 28 assists.
Denver made the adjustment from game two into game three that has made them so dangerous all season, which was don’t force Jokic to score but let him distribute and create. Not only did they adjust the offensive end, but it’s clear they got the message from their head coach about effort, as their defensive efficiency rating went from 129.1 in game two down to 102.2 in game three.
Outside of the effort, Denver did an excellent job of not allowing any of the Heat role players or secondary scorers to get hot and alter the game. Outside of Butler and Adebayo, the only other player on the Heat to finish the game in double figures was Caleb Martin, as he made some big shots in a second-quarter scoring run but, for the most part, after that was kept at bay.
The utter difference between the two teams was made clear by the three-point shooting results at the end of the night. Denver won and scored 109 points despite going 5-18 from three in the game, while Miami cannot stay in a game for all four quarters when Gabe Vincent and Max Strus are shooting a combined 2-10 from deep. That duo knocked down a combined eight threes in the game-two win, which gave the Heat five double-digit scorers instead of three.
The two plays I have written about this series have both been first-half plays in favor of the Nuggets spread. Tonight, Denver can be found as (-1) point favorites in the first half, and I’ll be dipping into that well again by backing them for my play. Denver has shown that their style of play, especially when Jokic is pushing and distributing, is tough to guard, and with tonight being the quickest turnaround in the series, I think the Heat will struggle to keep up even more.
Miami was adamant after game three they would not change their gameplan, and while their aggressive defense has been successful all postseason, the Nuggets have the depth and play style to wear them down tonight. The quick transition approach with Jokic leading the charge was highly effective in game two and has been all postseason, as Denver is averaging 20.3 points in transition during the playoffs.
The Nuggets' offensive efficiency rating in the first half of this series is 122.5, as opposed to the Heat’s 102.2. I don’t foresee the Nuggets shooting as poorly from three tonight either, as the looks that Jokic is giving his teammates on the perimeter will eventually start falling, and I don’t think the Heat can keep pace with that.
Denver Nuggets 1H (-1)