The Miami Heat are a good team, but they have simply been outmatched in the NBA Finals and after their Game 4 victory in Miami, the Denver Nuggets are one win away from claiming their first title. The race for this year's Finals MVP award really is not much of a race anymore, as Nuggets superstar Nikola Jokic is just days away from being named the 2023 NBA Finals MVP at this point.
After becoming the first player in Finals history to record a 30-20-10 triple-double in Game 3, Jokic came back down to earth a little bit with a 23-point, 12-rebound double-double in Game 4. However, this victory was not about Jokic, nor was it really about Jamal Murray. It was about Aaron Gordon, as he led the charge for the Nuggets with his best game of the Finals, recording 27 points, seven rebounds and six assists in 42 minutes of play.
“You know, he's playing a different role, and that's why he sacrificed himself and that's why he's a great teammate, and that's why he won us the game today,” Jokic said after the game in regards to Gordon's performance. “I think if you sacrifice yourself for something bigger than yourself, the team, whatever, he sacrifices himself, and that's why I think the one upstairs gave him the game today, gave him the game that he had. He was our best player on the floor, and guarding the best player every night, that's a tough job.
“Maybe he's not going to get a lot of credit, but we know what he's doing for our team, and we're really thankful for him and we appreciate him a lot.”
"[Aaron Gordon] won us the game, he was our best player on the floor… We know what he's doing for our team and we're really thankful for him and we appreciate him a lot."
—Nikola Jokic pic.twitter.com/bgbmoFb8EC
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) June 10, 2023
Gordon's performance in Game 4 truly lifted Denver to a victory, especially with Jokic in foul trouble late in the fourth quarter and Murray being quiet in terms of scoring. Someone needed to pick up the load for the Nuggets in this one and Gordon answered the call for his team.
From the storylines revolving around all the records Jokic is breaking to Murray recording at least ten assists in every game of this series to Gordon's recent breakout game, everything about this year's Finals revolve around the Nuggets. This is why Denver is likely to win the title and why Jokic is on his way to earning his first Finals MVP award.
Four games of this year's championship series are in the books and with the Nuggets leading the Heat 3-1, here is an updated look at the NBA Finals MVP Power Rankings.
#1 Nikola Jokic – Denver Nuggets
Previous rank: #1
He's just simply great. There is no other way to describe Nikola Jokic, as he is on the path to becoming one of the greatest centers in NBA history, that is if he is not already at this point. Through four games in the Finals, Jokic is now averaging 30.8 points, 13.5 rebounds and 8.0 assists while shooting 55.0 percent from the floor. These are just absurd numbers, but it is what we have become accustomed to seeing from Denver's star.
Only one player in NBA history has ever recorded at least 500 points, 250 rebounds and 150 assists in a single postseason and that player is Jokic this year. At 28-years-old and through eight seasons now, Jokic is a five-time All-Star, a five-time All-NBA center, a two-time league MVP and soon to be an NBA Finals MVP. Already a sure-thing Hall of Famer when he is ready to retire in over a decade, this is just the beginning of what will end up being one of the greatest careers we have ever seen in the history of the NBA.
#2 Jamal Murray – Denver Nuggets
Previous rank: #2
Whether it was the floor burn he suffered on his left hand in Game 3 or just a down shooting night, Murray did not have an over the top offensive performance in Denver's Game 4 victory. He scored 15 points on 5-17 shooting, 2-3 from three-point range, but Murray found another way to impact the game with his 12 assists. Better yet, Murray recorded zero turnovers in this victory and this marks his fourth straight game in the NBA Finals with at least ten assists.
The Nuggets guard is now the first player in league history with at least ten assists through his first four Finals games (per ESPN Stats & Info) and no other player even has three games with these numbers! What Murray has accomplished thus far has been remarkable and if he can continue to be the secondary scorer and facilitator Denver counts on him to be next to Jokic, the Nuggets will be hoisting their first championship trophy into the air following Game 5 in Denver.
#3 Aaron Gordon – Denver Nuggets
Previous rank: Unranked
Gordon has silently put together a terrific postseason and his contributions tend to go unnoticed because of the dominance of both Jokic and Murray. However, he proved to be the main reason why the Nuggets claimed Game 4 on the road in Miami, as he finished the game with 27 points, seven rebounds and six assists. 15 of his 16 total points in the first half came in the second quarter while Jokic was on the bench for Denver and throughout this entire series, the Heat have not had an answer for guarding Gordon.
When they've put guys like Max Strus and Gabe Vincent on him, Gordon has simply used his strength and size to his advantage to get into the paint and score. Defensively, Gordon has really come into his own as an all-around stopper. Whether he is guarding big guys in the low-post or guys out on the perimeter, Gordon is truly one of the best versatile defenders in this league at the moment. Everyone that is apart of the Nuggets organization loves Gordon's energy and intensity, which is why he is a core reason for their postseason success.
#4 Bam Adebayo – Miami Heat
Previous rank: #4
The Heat are on the verge of losing in the NBA Finals, but none of the blame can really fall on Bam Adebayo. While he has taken some questionable shots and missed some easy layups on the offensive-end of the floor, Bam has done everything the Heat have asked him to do. He's done a really solid job defending Jokic and limiting his abilities as a primary facilitator, plus Adebayo has scored at least 20 points in every single Finals game this year.
Adebayo also has three double-doubles in the Finals and in the one game he did not record a double-double, he finished with nine rebounds. Coming into this series, there were a lot of questions about if Adebayo would have what it takes to defend Jokic and if he would make an impact on the offensive-end of the floor. Bam has delivered in this series for the Heat, but the only problem is that the rest of the team has not. Give Adebayo the credit he deserves because this may just be the best playoff series he has ever had.
#5 Jimmy Butler – Miami Heat
Previous rank: #3
Throughout the entire playoffs, the NBA world has raved about Jimmy Butler and how great of a player he is. Butler is fantastic, don't get me wrong, but he has been extremely underwhelming in this championship series despite scoring a combined 53 points the last two games. Denver's defense deserves a lot of credit for not allowing Butler to go on the scoring flurries we are accustomed to seeing, but what Butler's struggles come down to is the fact that the other guys on this team are not contributing. The Heat as a whole are shooting just 36.6 percent from three-point range and some of their key secondary performers like Caleb Martin and Max Strus have not played at a championship-level. If there is any team that can overcome a 3-1 deficit though this year, it is this Heat team and everything starts with their star player.
They play at their best when adversity hits them in the face and there is no bigger challenge than the one that awaits them. Don't count the Heat out just yet. They went to Denver earlier in this series and pulled out a Game 2 victory. If they can do the same and Butler can step up to have a masterclass performance, the door will open slightly for them to possibly win Game 6 and force a decisive Game 7. This is why Butler still remains in the NBA Finals MVP Power Rankings.
Others to watch for: Bruce Brown (DEN), Gabe Vincent (MIA), Kyle Lowry (MIA)
Bruce Brown was fantastic for the Nuggets in Game 4, as he scored 21 points off the bench in 30 minutes. He has been one of the most impactful free agency signings dating back to last offseason and Brown has really made the Nuggets one of the deepest teams in the league. Their bench has been the difference in the non-Jokic minutes throughout the playoffs and while he is not going to win the Finals MVP award, we have to at least applaud Brown for what he's been able to do. Not to mention, Brown is going to be making quite a bit of money moving forward due to his play! As for the Heat, hope still remains and both Kyle Lowry and Gabe Vincent need to step up for them to have a chance at extending this series.
Lowry had his best game of this series in Game 4, finishing with 13 points and seven assists off the bench, but Vincent struggled again with just two points and three fouls. Perimeter scoring is what makes the Heat a dangerous team and these two guards must hit their outside shots if Miami has a chance to come back against Denver. They went just 1-8 from three-point range combined in Game 4, which is not going to get the job done with Strus and others struggling. Lowry and Vincent are the key to Miami possibly turning this series around.