The NBA Finals is tied up at one game apiece after Miami stole Game 2 from the Nuggets on Sunday. Stick here for live updates and analysis as Denver takes on the Heat in Game 3 at Kaseya Center in Miami.
Game 3 headlines
FINAL: Nuggets 109, Heat 94: Spectacular second half from the Nuggets. No drama. No last-second heroics needed. Just the more talented team playing to a championship level. Even with offensive no-shows from Michael Porter Jr. and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, this thing was never in doubt. 28 assists. 51.2% shooting. A 58-33 rebounding edge. Another Nikola Jokic triple-double (32-21-10). A Jamal Murray triple-double (34 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists). And Christian Braun with the unexpected contribution (15 points, four rebounds). It’s 2-1 Nuggets and all of the discomfort from Sunday night feels like a distant memory. — Matt Schubert
Almost over (8:48 p.m.): There’s 3:24 left and Heat fans are streaming out. — Mike Singer
In control (8:47 p.m.): It’s 99-83 Nuggets with 3:24 to go after Nikola Jokic’s 12th basket of the game. He’s got 32 points, 20 rebounds and 10 assists. What an answer from Denver. — Matt Schubert
Lots of contributions (8:41 p.m.): I seriously wonder how many Finals games have ever featured three players from same team with double-digit scoring, at least five assists and at least seven rebounds each. Joker/Jamal/AG doing that right now. — Mike Singer
Murray triple in #PhantomCam 💨
Denver with 26 assists on 38 made FG’s so far in Game 3 🔥
The Nuggets lead in Q4 as they seek a 2-1 lead on ABC! pic.twitter.com/0SkkZctO6V
— NBA (@NBA) June 8, 2023
Jeff Van Gundy: “I don’t know what chain they give out after the game, but it better be given to Christian Braun.”
(8:35 p.m.): What an incredible game from Christian Braun. The Heat’s stranglehold on the fourth quarters in this series appears to be over, It’s 93-72 Nuggets with 8:28 to go. This thing is just about over folks. — Matt Schubert
The Kid from Kansas (8:34 p.m.): Christian Braun is having himself a game tonight in Miami, Nuggets starting to pull away from Heat. — Jeff Bailey
The Joker (8:33 p.m.): Nikola Jokic is the first player ever with 30-20-10 in an NBA Finals game. — Matt Schubert
THIRD QUARTER THOUGHTS
Mike Singer, Nuggets beat reporter: I think Michael Malone’s going to have to consider closing with Bruce/CB/ Jeff instead of Mike.
Matt Schubert, sports editor: It’s all there for the Nuggets. A big contribution from the bench (Christian Braun!). A re-emergence from Aaron Gordon (9 third quarter points). And Nikola Jokic is just one assist shy of yet another triple-double. Close this thing out and the Nuggets have a 2-1 series lead and home court advantage once again.
(8:19 p.m.): Christian Braun 10 points, 5 of 6 from the field in his third NBA Finals game. — Mike Singer
Christian Braun swipe and SLAM 🔨 pic.twitter.com/lj08byBplK
— NBA TV (@NBATV) June 8, 2023
Surging ahead (8:13 p.m.): The Nuggets are building the forth-quarter cushion they need, now with reserves on the floor with Jokic. It’s 78-62, as the Nuggets have a stranglehold on this this with 1:59 left in the third quarter. — Matt Schubert
Hitting the boards (8:09 p.m.): The Nuggets are toasting the Heat on the glass. — Bennett Durando
(8:05 p.m.): Jamal Murray has a couple offensive boards this half. Second one while Miami players were standing and watching. — Bennett Durando
Jokic lob to AG 🥽
Joker up to 8 assists early in Q3 on ABC!#NBAFinals presented by @YouTubeTV pic.twitter.com/JIy0UtXIUL
— NBA (@NBA) June 8, 2023
6-0 run (8 p.m.): A perfect start to Denver’s second half. They reel off a 6-0 run, and we get a Spo walk-on TO. — Mike Singer
All Nuggets to start (7:59): Outside of a couple of wide-open 3s that didn’t go down, things couldn’t have gone much better Denver early on. Two dunks for AG off beautiful feeds from Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray, connected defense on the other end and a picture perfect jumper from Joker to start the half, and suddenly the Nuggets have their largest lead of the game at 59-48 with 9:47 left in the third. — Matt Schubert
Third underway (7:55 p.m.): Jeff Green to Aaron Gordon during the first half: Play through it. Don’t wait for the call. — Matt Schubert
NUGGETS 53, HEAT 48HALFTIME THOUGHTS
Bennett Durando, sports reporter: Jimmy Butler is trying to bully Jamal Murray whenever he gets the chance, but the Nuggets have kept up the good work in terms of one important series theme: Butler’s 14 points? On 16 shots. I keep waiting for him to carry Miami through a tight second half in this series. I’m not doubting his short-term memory. Don’t think an inefficient first half means anything about what’s in store the next 24 minutes. Constant vigilance, Denver defense.
Sean Keeler, sports columnist: Why you love to see a stop to end the half: Miami coming into Game 3 has got a plus-3.9 scoring margin over the second half this postseason and plus-4.5 in the fourth quarter. Nuggs are plus-2.8 and plus 1.1 respectively. And some decent rotations out of trouble once Bam went up to get in Murray’s face. Spo’s serious about taking out the head of the snake, but that head’s also got 20 points at the half.
Bonus Keeler takeaway: Bruce Brown, 13 minutes, 5 points, +6 // MPJ, 13 minutes, 2 points, +2. I could see Porter starting the second half. But I don’t see him finishing it.
Matt Schubert, sports editor: All of the tension you’d expect from a Game 3 with the series tied 1-1. Nikola Jokic (14-12-7) and Jamal Murray (20 points on 8-of-13 shooting) are here, but Michael Porter Jr.’s Finals slump appears to have traveled to South Beach. If the Nuggets can get one more to come along with Joker and Murray, this game is right there for the taking.
Mark Kiszla, sports columnist: Gonna say it again. The Nuggets are better at basketball than Miami. Maybe not by as much as I thought. But definitely better.
Where’s AG? (7:34 p.m.): After a pair of free-throw bricks, Aaron Gordon has two points on 1-of-5 shooting from the field. The Nuggets need more. A lot more. — Matt Schubert
And there it is! A coast-to-coast two-handed slam from Gordon might be just what the doctor ordered. Someone other than Jokic and Murray needs to get going. — Matt Schubert
Murray beats the shot clock over Bam 🥶 pic.twitter.com/dPAdpTTEs7
— NBA TV (@NBATV) June 8, 2023
Talking it out (7:25 p.m.): Long chat between Aaron Gordon, Jeff Green and the referee after Miami called that timeout. Ref walked away and Green kept talking AG up, I think about how Gordon was getting pushed when he touched the ball on the last possession. — Bennett Durando
Murray time (7:23 p.m.): Back-to-back 3s from Jamal Murray, and the Nuggets are back in control. Murray has 14 points on 6-of-11 shooting (2 of 4 from 3). Can one of the other starters (MPJ, AG and KCP have four points combined) come with them? — Matt Schubert
Arrow on target (7:20 p.m.): A cold-blooded 3 from Jamal Murray. Place was roaring and the shot-clock was winding down. Looked like Murray jogged back on defense shaking his head. — Mike Singer
Bench mob (7:15 p.m.): The second unit that blew it open in Game 2 — Jamal/AG/bench mob — had a chance to replicate it but missed a couple near the hoop (Bruce floater, AG battle royale around the rim). Still, unit played Miami even, and Joker’s gonna come in after the timeout. Denver already with 22 points in the paint. — Mike Singer
Speed up (7:14 p.m.): The Nuggets’ emphasis on imposing their will inside is nice to see. They’re generating almost all of their scoring in the paint. But if they don’t get stops, they can’t get out in transition. Still only three fast-break points. Advantage Heat.
Pressing (7:13 p.m.): Another defensive wrinkle: The Heat pressing Jamal Murray and the second unit. No doubt it threw off the Nuggets’ rhythm there. All tied at 29 with 8:58 left in the second quarter. — Matt Schubert
(7:13 p.m.): I was told Tuesday that Nuggets have discussed expansion of playing rotation on daily basis. Reggie Jackson, who had played on 17 minutes in playoffs, made cameo appearance at end of 1Q. — Mark Kiszla
First quarter thoughts
Mark Kiszla, sports columnist: There was obvious emphasis to get Jamal Murray going. He put up seven shots in opening seven minutes.
Sean Keeler, sports columnist: Jimmy Butler can guard Jamal Murray, ya know, some of the time. Murray can’t guard Jimmy Buckets. Not this version of Jimmy Buckets, anyway.
Matt Schubert, sports editor: Jimmy Butler is starting to get comfortable for seemingly the first time all series. That was bound to happen. But for the Nuggets to be 0 for 5 from 3-point range and the game be tied after one quarter must be considered a positive development.
Surprise entry (7:03 p.m.): For the first time in this series, Reggie Jackson is on the court. Gotta believe that’s a direct result of KCP’s early foul trouble. — Matt Schubert
Solid start (7 p.m.): If not for the free throws (5-0 in favor of Miami), the Nuggets would be in complete control of this game. Denver is getting the looks it wants every time down the floor. The Heat (5 of 18) is not. — Matt Schubert
Timeout (6:57 p.m.): Nuggets cleared out for Jokic vs. Zeller. Jokic backed him down, drew a foul, then as the Nuggets called a timeout, he gave Zeller a high five and a butt slap. — Bennett Durando
Jokic spinning hook 🌪
Denver leads late in Q1 on ABC!#NBAFinals presented by @YouTubeTV pic.twitter.com/GGythcTAxl
— NBA (@NBA) June 8, 2023
Doing the dance (6:53 p.m.): Joker and Jamal working their two-man game on loop. Already with 14 of Denver’s 16 points. And 12 points in the paint. Nuggets using their size, strength unlike in G2. — Mike Singer
“Enjoy this moment, enjoy this opportunity, and embrace it!”
Coach Malone’s pregame speech to his Nuggets team seeking a 2-1 lead in Game 3!
Q1 LIVE on ABC 🍿 pic.twitter.com/PQTuB9uPrF
— NBA (@NBA) June 8, 2023
Pushing the pace (6:47 p.m.): One other positive development early on: The Nuggets are pushing the pace every chance they get. A tough break for KCP on that charge call. Hate the result. Love the aggression. Heat 14, Nuggets 12 with 6:24 left in the first quarter. Matt Schubert
Trouble again (6:46 p.m.): After fouling out in Game 2, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope already has picked up two fouls in the first six minutes in Miami. He would have had a basket on the second if the referee hadn’t deemed his bump before a hanging shot a charge. — Bennett Durando
Blue Arrow is here (6:45 p.m.): A great early sign for the Nuggets: This is the Jamal Murray (8 points) you want to see. — Matt Schubert
(6:44 p.m.): Super aggressive Jamal Murray from the jump. Already with 8 points in less than five minutes. Nuggets are trying to free him up by having AG bring the ball up the floor. — Mike Singer
Here we go (6:38 p.m.): Michael Malone pregame: Go out there and take it.Buckle up, this is gonna be fun. — Matt Schubert
Game 3 begins pic.twitter.com/rhxL9bxcXu
— Bennett Durando (@BennettDurando) June 8, 2023
Game 3 predictions
Mike Singer, Nuggets reporter: After the embarrassment of Game 2, which included abysmal defense and underwhelming effort, the Nuggets bounce back on the road. Jamal Murray, in particular, shakes off the ghost of Jimmy Butler for a big night. Nuggets 112, Heat 106
Sean Keeler, sports columnist: If the Nuggets got fat and happy after Game 1 and the Heat got motivated, why can’t the opposite happen here? We’re still counting the bodies Michael Malone threw under the bus. The Nuggs probably get at least one of two in South Beach, and after the haranguing last Sunday, this feels like the one. Nuggets 109, Heat 101.
Matt Schubert, sports editor: The Heat has consistently produced wide-open shots through two games against the Nuggets defense. And in Game 2, Miami actually knocked them down — especially from 3-point range. Will that trend continue in Game 3? And will the Heat be able to own the fourth quarter for a third game in row? The guess here is that this is where the Nuggets, the more talented team, figure things out. Prediction: Nuggets 115, Heat 109.
Bennett Durando, sports reporter: Can Jamal Murray score more? Can Michael Porter Jr. reverse his Game 2 role as a liability at both ends of the floor? Can Aaron Gordon channel whatever mode he was in during the first quarter of the series? The Nuggets are still the definitive better team. I’m convinced of that. You’re convinced of that. The Nuggets are convinced of that. I think they’ll win this series. But … I’m starting to believe in Heat Devil Magic, just a little. Pick: Heat 100, Nuggets 94
Michael Malone on Miami Heat’s Kevin Love adjustment in NBA Finals: “He’s not going to be rattled”
Doubted again (6:28 p.m.): Three of four panelists go with the Heat for Game 3 on ABC pregame show: Michael Wilbon, Jalen Rose and Stephen A. Smith. THE DIS-RE-SPECT! — Matt Schubert
A historic group 💯🪣
How will The Joker respond during tonight’s Game 3? 🤔 pic.twitter.com/pXtfEVzyVK
— NBA TV (@NBATV) June 7, 2023
Almost there (5 p.m.): How big is tonight’s Game 3? In the 76-year history of the NBA Finals, there have been 40 previous series that have started 1-1. The winner of Game 3 has gone on to win the Finals 80% of the time (32 of 40). That said, of those eight that lost Game 3 but went on to win the title, four have come in the last 12 years. That includes last year’s champion, Golden State. So, yes, the winner tonight gets a massive leg up in the series, but regardless of what happens, it will be far from a done deal. — Matt Schubert
Three keys (4:30 p.m.): Game 3 is upon us. Denver Post sports reporter Bennett Durando breaks down three keys for the Nuggets to win, including Michael Porter Jr. needing to make his jumpers. — Joe Nguyen
Nuggets-Heat Game 3: Must reads
Analysis: Why the Nuggets are failing to defend Miami Heat 3-pointers in NBA Finals, and how Denver can adjust in Game 3
After a win, coach Michael Malone was nonetheless critical of Denver’s perimeter defense. The Heat simply didn’t make open 3-point shots (33%). Strus was 0 for 9. On the next possession after that well-designed play, he clanked an even more open 3. All that was missing for Miami was the confidence of seeing it go in.
The Nuggets weren’t so lucky in Game 2.
Cooling off the Heat is now the most urgent issue facing Denver as a deadlocked NBA Finals moves to Miami. The South Beach underdogs lead the playoffs in 3-point percentage, and their 111-108 win Sunday was a more accurate representation of that threat, Bennett Durando reports. Read the full story.
Nuggets’ Michael Porter Jr. on NBA Finals criticism: “I’m not going to be sensitive”
Michael Porter Jr. is long past the point where compliments need to be spoon-fed or hurt feelings coddled.
At this point, tied 1-1 in the NBA Finals as the series shifts to Miami ahead of Wednesday’s Game 3, he knows any personal agendas are immaterial or, even worse, distractions.
“It’s just about winning, bro,” Porter told The Post. “At this point, where we’re at, we don’t have time for dudes to be in their feelings.”
Least of all Porter, who played only 5 minutes, 39 seconds, of the fourth quarter in Game 2 after his 3-point stroke abandoned him, and his defensive lapses, whether via miscommunications or effort, left the Nuggets vulnerable from the perimeter. Through two games, Porter’s shot just 3 for 17 from the 3-point line. Defensively, he was involved in several inexcusable breakdowns as Miami torched Denver from the 3-point line, Mike Singer reports. Read the full story.
Kiszla: Are Nuggets at disadvantage in battle of coaching wits between Michael Malone and Erik Spoelstra?
On the big stage that is the NBA Finals, here’s the part nobody wants to say out loud: Where the Nuggets’ lack of championship experience could hurt them most is in the matchup between coaches Michael Malone and Erik Spoelstra.
If a ring’s the thing, Spoelstra exhibits the unflappable confidence of a champion who already owns two, while Malone craves his first one with the desperate hunger of a man who hasn’t eaten in days.
Spoelstra has made all the right moves in the Finals, while Malone is searching for ways to shake the Nuggets from a disturbing new trend of fourth-quarter funk. Too harsh? It’s not criticism if it’s honest, Mark Kiszla writes. Read the full column.
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