We all knew how good Nikola Jokic was heading into the NBA Finals, but what he has done recently is simply amazing. A two-time league MVP who is constantly putting his name next to some of the greatest in league history when it comes to records, the Denver Nuggets star continued to display his dominance in this championship series on Wednesday night.
With the NBA Finals all squared up at a game apiece, Jokic and the Nuggets rolled past the Miami Heat in Game 3, winning 109-94 thanks to massive performances by their two focal points. Jokic finished the game with 32 points, 21 rebounds and 10 assists, becoming the first player in league history to record a 30-20-10 triple-double in the Finals, and his counterpart in Jamal Murray recorded a triple-double of his own with 34 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists.
In fact, Jokic and Murray became the first pair of teammates in NBA history, not just Finals history, to record a 30-point triple-double in the same game. The two Nuggets stars have been sensational and now, they have their franchise within two wins of their first title ever.
Taking Game 2 on the road to even the series momentarily, the Heat knew that the Nuggets were going to be playing with a different sense of urgency and energy in Game 3. Miami did not necessarily play bad, but this was definitely not their best game by any means.
The Heat shot just 37.0 percent from the floor, 31.4 percent from three-point range and they simply got beat by the Nuggets when it came to grabbing rebounds and 50-50 balls. Being outrebounded 58-33 in any game is never good and it is even worse when it happens in the NBA Finals.
Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo combined for 50 of their team's 94 points, but the rest of Miami's starting unit was held to just 16 combined points on 5-22 shooting. Despite trailing in this series though, the Heat still have a ton of belief in what they do and Butler ushered this mindset ahead of a critical Game 4.
“I wouldn't change anything. Not one thing,” Butler stated in his media availability on Thursday. “I continue to be who I am. We will continue to be who we are as a group, as a team. We're going to go out here and compete together. We're going to win together. We're going to be who we are. I wouldn't change a thing, though.”
Things could get really interesting if the Heat can win Game 4 and even this series up once again, but should the Nuggets take another game in Miami, the Larry O'Brien championship trophy will be within Denver's grasp.
With the Nuggets recapturing momentum in this series, Nikola Jokic remains the favorite for this year's Finals MVP award with Murray right behind him. Here is an updated look at the 2023 NBA Finals MVP Power Rankings following Denver's victory on Wednesday night.
1. Nikola Jokic – Denver Nuggets
Previous rank: #1
It seems like every game Nikola Jokic has played in the NBA Finals thus far, he's done something historically different each time. He recorded a triple-double in his first ever Finals game, then he followed that performance up with 41 points in Denver's Game 2 loss. In Game 3, Jokic had his 30-20-10 triple-double and now, the conversation regarding this year's Finals MVP isn't whether or not the Nuggets star will win the award should they win the title, but whether or not he has done enough already to win it should Miami claim the title. Just looking at what he did in the first half on Wednesday night, Jokic had a near triple-double with 14 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists. This guy is playing at an unbelievable level right now and while he did not win the 2022-23 NBA MVP award, Jokic is proving that he is the best player in the world. Unless Miami wins three straight games with Butler recording at least 30 points in every single game, Jokic should be this season's Finals MVP regardless of the outcome. This is why he sits atop of the NBA Finals MVP Power Rankings for the third straight time.
2. Jamal Murray – Denver Nuggets
Previous rank: #4
Recording his 34-point triple-double in Game 3, Murray has now recorded exactly 10 assists in every game of the NBA Finals. This is not only the longest streak of Murray's career with at least 10 assists, but he joins Magic Johnson (six times) and Bob Cousy (1959) as the only players in league history to record double-digit assists in three consecutive Finals games. Going from missing all of last season, as he recovered from an ACL injury, to now aiding his team in their championship efforts is remarkable and just speaks to the kind of resilient character Murray is. In this series, Murray is now averaging 26.0 points and 10.0 assists per game while shooting 50.8 percent from the floor and just below 40.0 percent from three-point range. If it was not for Jokic, the Nuggets point guard would be running away with the Finals MVP award this year.
3. Jimmy Butler – Miami Heat
Previous rank: #5
We have to give a lot of credit to the Nuggets for the way they have defended Butler in this series. However, the fact of the matter is that the Heat need Butler to string together one or two of his monumental playoff performances we are accustomed to seeing in order for them to win this series. Scoring 28 points in Game 3 was a step in the right direction, but it proved to be not enough with the rest of his team struggling. Butler has made it clear though that the Heat do not feel like they are in trouble and he is not going to change any aspect of his game. Seeing Miami's star play more aggressive and get to his spots a little easier in Wednesday night's game is definitely a key takeaway for the Heat heading into the remaining games of this series.
4. Bam Adebayo – Miami Heat
Previous rank: #2
This Finals series may just be the best basketball Bam Adebayo has played in his career with the Heat. Recording 22 points and 17 rebounds in the loss, Adebayo is now averaging 23.0 points and 13.0 rebounds per game while shooting 46.7 percent from the floor against Denver. For a guy who is not necessarily known to be a high-level scorer, Bam is playing some exceptional basketball and is really beginning to look comfortable taking mid-range shots in this series. With three straight games with at least 21 points and two double-doubles thus far, the Heat really can't ask for much more from Adebayo.
5. Gabe Vincent – Miami Heat
Previous rank: #3
Out of everyone who couldn't get their shots to fall for the Heat in Game 3, Gabe Vincent really struggled the most. Coming off of a stellar 23-point performance on the road, he had just seven points on 2-10 shooting, 1-6 from three-point range in Wednesday's loss. All night long, Vincent just looked out of rhythm and his three first half fouls really took him out of his groove. Butler needs to be great, as does Adebayo, for the Heat to have a chance at capturing the title, but Vincent is their X-factor. The Heat are not a very talented offensive team and any bit of production they can get outside of their two stars is a win. Vincent emerged this season as a viable third scoring option for this team and he proved to be this kind of player through the first two games of the Finals. Heading into Game 4, the Heat must try and get their fourth-year guard going early.
Others to watch for: Caleb Martin (MIA), Max Strus (MIA), Michael Porter Jr. (DEN)
This is the section of the NBA Finals Power Rankings that I really like, especially since these three players always tend to be the difference in their team winning or losing. Starting things off with the two Heat players, Caleb Martin and Max Strus can absolutely surprise many in the final few games of this series. Martin had himself a breakout series against the Boston Celtics and was almost named the Eastern Conference Finals MVP before taking on the Nuggets. He scored 26 points in Game 7 of that series, but in the Finals, he has just 16 total points. If the Heat can get Martin going, it will open up their offense tremendously. As for Strus, he's been ice-cold from the perimeter other than the first quarter of Game 2 in Denver. Strus is a guy that can get going at anytime though, which is why he could wind up being a player who hits a handful of clutch threes late in a game to give Miami a win. As for Michael Porter Jr., he's really struggled offensively after his 14-point performance in Game 1. Porter is just 3-19 from three-point range in the series and finds himself in the same boat as Strus. He can get going at any point though and eventually, Porter's shots are going to start falling at a high rate.