The Miami Heat’s head coach, Erik Spoelstra, has consistently preached about the value of adversity for months, noting that it was instrumental in helping the team reach the NBA Finals. Now, however, Denver is experiencing adversity as well. Game 3 of the NBA Finals is scheduled for Wednesday night in Miami, with the series between the eighth-seeded Heat and top-seeded Nuggets tied at one game apiece. Miami managed to rally and win the second game of the series in Denver 111-108 on Sunday night, which resulted in Nuggets coach Michael Malone expressing his frustration about his team’s lack of discipline during the game’s possessions.
Malone said on Tuesday that the team had “a really good film session this morning” and that everyone on the team had been afforded the opportunity to speak and discuss what they had observed during the game. He added that it was a very honest conversation and that everyone was owning up to what they needed to work on in Game 3. Simply put, Denver needs to follow Miami’s example after Game 1.
In the first two games played in Denver, the Heat was dealing with significant deficits. In Game 1, they were down by 24 points and 15 points in Game 2. Although they attempted a comeback in the first game, narrowing the gap late to a nine-point deficit, in the second game, Miami wiped out the entire lead and went on to secure a victory.
According to Spoelstra, “You’re in the finals, you’re going to be dealing with great players, great teams. You have to find a way to overcome it and make it difficult and do a lot of things that are tough.” Whichever team wins on Wednesday will have the upper hand with a 2-1 series lead, a historically significant advantage. When an NBA finals series is tied 1-1, the team that wins Game 3 has gone on to claim the title 80% of the time (32 times in 40 past instances). Furthermore, 2-1 series leaders, regardless of whether they won Game 3 or not, have taken the title 79% of the time (49 times in 62 past instances).
Although the Heat is making an appearance in its second finals in four seasons, the team will be playing its first finals game at home since 2014. The 2020 appearance was located in a bubble, with no fans during most of that experience and only a few family members present for the finals.
Whilst the crowd can provide energy, it is not enough to win games, as Heat guard Kyle Lowry emphasized, “The overall energy for your team and your group, it will give you a little bit of a lift — but it won’t win you the game, because you’ve still got to go out there and hoop.” Although Miami is outscoring Denver 66-45 in fourth quarters, shooting 64% to the Nuggets’ 44% in the final period and holding a 33-9 edge in points off 3-pointers, they have been on the defensive for the first three quarters of both games played in Denver.
In those periods, Denver has outscored Miami 167-138, outshooting the Heat 53% to 39%, and although Miami has outscored Denver 57-48 on 3s in those quarters, the margin isn’t as significant as what the Nuggets have dealt with in final quarters. Nikola Jokic, Denver’s player, said, “Just don’t get them wide-open looks. Yes, we know they have talented players. But we cannot give them open looks, and that was the main key.”
Both teams had to undergo a mandatory public workout as part of the NBA media’s off-day schedule on Tuesday, with the Nuggets appearing loose and relaxed, smiling a lot. The Heat was more or less doing the same. Moods will change by Wednesday night’s end; one of the teams will be two victories away from securing the NBA title.
Miami forward Kevin Love said, “When we’re working, we still like to have fun and keep it loose.” Although it makes them feel comfortable, it is also intentional, with the whole team willing to make whatever sacrifices it takes to win.
AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports