After dropping Game 1 of the 2023 NBA Finals on the road to the Denver Nuggets, the Miami Heat once again showed their resilience in the playoffs, as they handed Denver their first home loss of the postseason with a 111-108 victory in Game 2.
Leading by 11 with just under four minutes to play in the first quarter, the Heat allowed the Nuggets to go on a 40-14 run and take a 15-point lead in the second quarter. It seemed like Denver was going to pull away before halftime and take a dominating 2-0 series lead, but Miami continued to fight hard and contrary to Game 1, their perimeter shots were falling in the second game of this series.
Miami finished Game 2 shooting 48.7 percent from the floor and 48.6 percent from three-point range, outscoring Denver by 18 points from beyond the arc. Controlling almost all of the second half other than the final two minutes of the game, the Heat shocked many with their victory on the road and now, this series just got a whole lot interesting heading to South Beach for Games 3 and 4.
Nikola Jokic had another massive performance in his first championship series, as the Nuggets big man went for 41 points and 11 rebounds in this game. He remains the favorite to win the Finals MVP award for Denver, but Gabe Vincent, Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler all scored at least 20 points in Game 2, as they have entered their names in the race for the league's illustrious award.
Here is an updated look at the 2023 NBA Finals MVP Power Rankings following Miami's victory on Sunday night.
1. Nikola Jokic – Denver Nuggets
Following up his 27-point, 14-assist and 10-rebound triple-double from Game 1 with a 41-point double-double in Game 2, Nikola Jokic is still the favorite to win this year's Finals MVP award. There really is no stopping Jokic, as he is going to produce for the Nuggets no matter the circumstances. What Miami did well on Sunday night though was limiting Jokic's ability to make his teammates better in terms of his passing. Denver's MVP was held to just four assists, his fewest he's recorded in a playoff game this year. With others struggling to score in Game 2, Jokic took the ball and looked to be aggressive every single possession. Scoring 18 of his 41 points in the third quarter, Jokic has now scored a total of 68 points through his first two Finals games, tying Kevin Durant for the third-most points in a player's first two Finals games.
2. Bam Adebayo – Miami Heat
Going up against a two-time league MVP, Bam Adebayo has really done a nice job of holding his own on both ends of the floor so far in this series. Bam has recorded back-to-back games with at least 21 points and nine rebounds, plus he is shooting 21-39 (53.8 percent) from the floor in the Finals. Defensively, Adebayo has continued to make his presence felt and despite Jokic's 41 points, he did a really good job of forcing Jokic into traffic, resulting in five turnovers by Denver's big man. With two straight 20-point games in the NBA Finals, Adebayo is now on a list with LeBron James, Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade as the only players in team history with multiple 20-point games in the Finals. If he continues to play at a high-level and contribute on both ends of the floor, the Heat will have a very strong chance of winning this series.
3. Gabe Vincent – Miami Heat
Gabe Vincent has been fantastic for the Heat all throughout the playoffs and he is beginning to turn himself into a household name in the NBA Finals. After scoring 19 points in Game 1, Vincent led the Heat with 23 points in Game 2 on 8-12 shooting, 4-6 from three-point range. Vincent was a game-high +22 while on the floor and it seemed like every time he touched the ball, something good happened for Miami. A lot of his success has come in pick-and-roll sets with either Butler or Adebayo, as Vincent has been getting to his spots in the mid-range area and taking high percentage shots. In this series, the Heat guard is shooting 12-21 (57.1 percent) on pull-up jumpers mainly due to the fact of how good he is with creating separation in pick-and-roll sets. “I speak for my whole team when I say we don't give a damn,” Vincent said after the game when asked about if the team feels disrespected by their lack of credit. “We just want to get four wins. We don't give a damn about none of the other stuff.” Well, this mindset seems to be working for Vincent, as three more performances like the one he had in Game 2 may result in the Heat winning a championship and him being named the Finals MVP!
4. Jamal Murray – Denver Nuggets
In Game 1, Jamal Murray was brilliant with 26 points, 10 assists and six rebounds. Game 2 however was a completely different story. While Murray did finish the game with 10 assists and just one turnover, he had just 18 points on 7-15 shooting, 3-8 from three-point range with two of his made threes coming in the dwindling minutes of the game. Murray struggled to get going all night long in large part because of Butler and the Heat's defense, but in order for the Nuggets to win a championship, all of the weight cannot fall upon Jokic's shoulders. He stepped up in Game 1 and Murray will need to play like the star he is moving forward in this series if Denver is to win their first title. If he continues to score below 20 points a game, the Nuggets will have no chance to win against Miami unless Michael Porter Jr. has an insane shooting night from the perimeter, something that has yet to happen.
5. Jimmy Butler – Miami Heat
If the Heat win this series, Butler will very likely get the Finals MVP award because he is the leader of the team. Heading back to Miami with the series tied at 1-1 and Butler not having one of his monumental performances, the Heat have to feel very good about where they are. The Heat All-Star has played well, but Butler has been pretty quiet in this series in terms of scoring. He's making plays for his teammates though with his passing and on defense, he's stepped up and really challenged Murray in Game 2. Making those around him better is Butler's main goal and when the Heat need a bucket, he is always there to deliver. There were multiple instances on Sunday night where Butler would hit a big shot to end a scoring drought for Miami or when Denver was seizing a little bit of momentum. This is why the Heat pay him the big bucks and this is why Jimmy Butler is an elite-level talent in our league.
Others to watch for: Aaron Gordon (DEN), Max Strus (MIA), Michael Porter Jr. (DEN)
After finding their way into the Top-5 of the Finals MVP race following Game 1, Aaron Gordon and Michael Porter Jr. are both honorable mentions now. Gordon recorded 12 points and seven boards in Game 2's loss, but he was held in check most of the night. Scoring in the paint with ease in the first game, two of Gordon's five made shots came from beyond the three-point line in Game 2. As for Porter, his shooting struggles continue, as he went just 1-6 from the perimeter in this game and was almost non-existent on both ends of the floor. For the Heat, Max Strus continues to be an X-factor and while he may not win the Finals MVP award if they win the series, he will be one of the main reasons why they possibly claim the championship. Going 0-9 from deep in Game 1, Strus started Game 2 making three of his first four shots from deep. He finished the game 4-10 from long-range, but the logic is simple. If Strus hits his perimeter shots, the Heat win games and if he is off, they end up losing. Shooters shoot and if his shots are falling, Strus can help lead Miami to a title.