The Denver Nuggets certainly have not underestimated the Miami Heat for even a single second, but now they know all too well the pain the likes of the Milwaukee Bucks, New York Knicks, and the Boston Celtics experienced in the past month. No lead is ever quite safe against this pesky Heat squad, and the Nuggets became the latest team to be on the receiving end of a late-game comeback, tying the series at one apiece. With two days of rest before the 2023 NBA Finals resumes, here are a few bold predictions for how the Nuggets would respond when they take on the Heat on the road in Game 3.
It's not like the Nuggets played poorly; they were certainly in the mix for a victory, even leading for much of the contest. Nikola Jokic put in a performance befitting of his MVP status, dropping 41 points on 16-28 shooting from the field. But the Heat, like the turd that simply won't go down the drain no matter how hard one presses the flush or like the cockroach that won't die with a single smash of a flip-flop, came alive once again en route to a 111-108 comeback victory.
In the end, as well as Jokic played, it was the Heat's balanced attack that won out against the Nuggets' one-man barrage. Three Heat players scored 20 or more points. On the contrary, the Nuggets, aside from Nikola Jokic, had no one breach the 20-point mark.
Simply put, the Nuggets will need the members of their supporting cast, namely Michael Porter Jr. and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, to play better than they did to take back control of the 2023 NBA Finals. Can they do so in Game 3?
Here are three bold predictions for when the Nuggets visit the Kaseya Center to try and regain homecourt advantage.
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Michael Porter Jr. drops 20+ points
Michael Porter Jr. has all the tools to become one of the deadliest third options in the entire NBA. Not only does his incredible height and wingspan at his position allow him to get his shot off at any time, his activity on the boards also makes him a useful weapon even when he's not heavily involved in the offense.
In the end, the ability to make shots is what sets Porter apart — and what has earned him a huge contract. And it may be time for him to step up, especially with the Heat's defensive intensity ratcheting up late in Game 3.
In Game 3, Michael Porter Jr. scored just five points on 2-8 shooting from the field, which is simply unacceptable. Credit must go to the Heat's defense for slowing him down, but knowing Porter's talent, he certainly can play at a much better level than he did on Sunday night.
Jamal Murray leads team in scoring
Nikola Jokic, as we have all come to know, is the engine that powers the Nuggets' high-octane offense. There are no easy covers for Jokic; he can power through small defenders on the block, ping pinpoint passes to teammates from anywhere on the court when coming up against double teams, and he can space the floor reasonably well as well.
The Heat, however, know this, and appears to have given up, or at least made it less a priority, on slowing down the two-time MVP. They allowed Jokic to shoot to his heart's content in Game 2; while it resulted in a 41-point outburst, the Heat effectively took out the Nuggets' supporting cast as a byproduct of their tactics.
As much as head coach Erik Spoelstra would brush off the notion that the Heat would be better off just turning Nikola Jokic into a “scorer”, there's a bit of merit to that assumption. But Spoelstra is right as well in that the Nuggets “have many different actions” that compromise the defense. And in Game 3, the Nuggets could very well compromise the Heat's defense to the extent of achieving victory, as long as Jamal Murray, their second-best player, steps up to the plate.
And Murray, as he has done in the past, will be more than capable of stepping up as the Nuggets' leading scorer in Game 3, confounding the Heat's defense even further.
Nuggets hold Heat to less than 10 made threes in Game 3
The Heat have utilized the three-ball as the great equalizer during the entirety of the 2023 NBA playoffs. It seems like every player who gets minutes can reasonably heat from up deep during any given game. And in Game 2, it was Gabe Vincent's turn, as well as Duncan Robinson's in the fourth quarter, to lead the Heat to victory by catching fire.
It's easier said than done to cool down the Heat from beyond the arc. They play exceptionally unselfish basketball, creating good shots on seemingly every possession. But the Nuggets will make it a priority to slow down the Heat's barrage from beyond the arc, holding them to less than 10 threes as they take a 2-1 series lead in the 2023 NBA Finals.