The musical joyride of the 8th seeded Miami Heat might come to a brutal halt on Monday night if they can’t stop the Nugget Express from chugging into Championsville. The Western Conference Champions hold a comfortable 3-1 series advantage over their Eastern counterparts and hold the luxury of a closeout game in Denver.
Caption: Nikola Jokic brings the ball upcourt to run the offense.
After losing for the first time in this postseason at home back in Game 2, the Nuggets won two tough road games in South Florida to control the series, including a remarkable Game 3 that saw triple-doubles from both star PG Jamal Murray and C Nikola Jokic. Despite the efforts of superstar forward Jimmy Butler, the Heat find themselves in a huge hole that may prove tough to overcome, even for the scrappy squad from South Beach. Bam Adebayo has failed to stop Nikola Jokic defensively and convert opportunities in the paint on the offensive end of the court. Tyler Herro, who was rumored to make a comeback in Game 2, has stayed out and will remain on the bench for Miami leaving a huge void in the Heat’s offensive capability. The Heat’s woes from the field, including an abysmal 2-10 performance from Gabe Vincent in Game 3 have hampered the Heat’s ability to win. Credit the Nuggets defense though, as in each victory of the series they have kept Miami under 100 points and while failing to produce a huge amount of turnovers, smother the Heat offense enough to force tough, contested shots at the end of the shot clock.
The 2x MVP Nikola Jokic has been nothing short of spectacular in this year’s Finals, averaging an insane 30.8 PPG, 13.5 RPG, and 8.0 APG in the series. His ability to spread the ball out to his teammates and provide them with easy scoring opportunities has baffled the Heat and coach Erik Spoelstra. Jamal Murray has also stepped up in a huge way for the Nuggets, averaging 23.3 PPG and 10.5 APG in the clash against Miami. And Despite Michael Porter Jr.’s struggles from the field, guys like Aaron Gordon and Bruce Brown have shown up in huge moments away from the spotlight of the Joker and Murray. Most of Denver’s game revolves around the dynamic duo of Jokic and Murray, and if the Heat can’t find a way to disrupt the sweet groove they are in right now, they’ll be finding themselves on the first flight out of Denver Tuesday morning.
Now, with Game 5 due up tomorrow night, what should we expect? Currently, Vegas and the sportsbooks have the Nuggets set up as a dominant favorite, with a spread of Denver -9.0. Denver will be playing with explosive energy in front of an ecstatic home crowd that wants to see the city’s first NBA championship ever. The Heat are in a must-win situation and will lay it all on the line to stave off elimination for one more game. While Jimmy Butler has performed tremendously throughout the Finals, I don’t see his efforts paying off in Game 5. The lack of support from the role players on this Heat squad will only be amplified on the road, and should the Nuggets stump the Heat offense once more and hold them to a low total, the Heat’s loss is inevitable. Miami just has not figured out a way to break up the 1-2 punch of Jokic and Murray, and Denver should keep steamrolling on ahead to their first NBA title in franchise history. Expect Denver to seize victory in a low scoring affair.