The Miami Heat have constantly battled being the underdog throughout the NBA Playoffs, yet have managed to defy expectations.
After the Denver Nuggets soundly defeated the Heat last Thursday, many thought the Heat’s Cinderella run to the NBA Finals was dying. But the series is now tied at one game apiece after Miami’s 111-108 victory over Denver in Game 2 on Sunday.
The Heat will have home court advantage as the series moves to Miami for Games 3 and 4.
The Heat came back from an 8-point deficit at the start of the fourth quarter to win. The Heat’s victory came despite an impressive 41-point effort from Nuggets center Nikola Jokic.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said his team has faced adversity all year. That experience helped Miami avoid returning home down 2-0 in the series.
“We've talked about it in all the previous three series, so I feel like I'm being redundant,” Spoelstra said. “We faced a lot of adversity during the season. We handled it the right way where you are not making excuses about it — the injuries, the changes in lineups. Because of all that adversity and the 57 close games that happened, due to a lot of that, it hardened us. It steeled us and we developed some grit, which is what we all want.”
Gabe Vincent, who led Miami with 23 points, chalked up Sunday’s comeback to effort.
“I think just in general, we just competed harder today,” he said. “I don't know if it was any direct scheme or direct thing we did outside of just being a little more intentional and a little more focused and playing just a bit harder, just competing a little bit more.”
Denver coach Michael Malone agreed his squad lacked the effort needed to win.
“I asked the team, I asked them, you guys tell me why they lost, and they knew the answer,” he said. “Miami came in here and outworked us, and we were by far our least disciplined game of these 16 or 17 playoff games, whatever it is now. So many breakdowns. They exploited every one of our breakdowns and scored. If we're going to try to go down there and regain control of this series and get home-court advantage back, we're going to have to outwork Miami, which we didn't do tonight, and our discipline is going to have to be off the charts.”
Denver had a shot to tie the game and force overtime in the final seconds, but Jamal Murray’s 3-point attempt was off the mark after being guarded by Jimmy Butler.
“I think he got off a decently good look,” Butler said. “Pretty glad that he missed it to give us a 1-1 series tie going back to Miami.”
Game 3 of the best-of-seven NBA Finals will be played Wednesday evening in Miami.
Trending stories at Scrippsnews.com