By TIM REYNOLDS
DENVER — Looking down a 2-0 deficit in the NBA Finals, as the visitors in a hostile arena where no road team had prevailed in over two months, the Miami Heat decided to do which they did throughout the playoffs.
They found a way. Against all odds. Again.
The Heat tied the NBA Finals and had to overcome a monster 41-point effort from Nikola Jokic to do so. Gabe Vincent scored 23 points, Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo each scored 21, and Heat beat the Denver Nuggets 111-108 in Game 2 on Sunday night.
“Our guys are competitors,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “They love those kinds of moments.”
They were down by as much as 15 points, eight down going into fourth, and those numbers meant they were going to lose. Denver was 11-0 this postseason when leading by double digits at any point in a game, and 37-1 this season overall when leading by at least eight heading into fourth.
The Heat didn’t care. They beat Denver 17-5 in the opening 3:17 of the fourth to take the lead for good, eventually went up 12, then wasted most of it and had to survive a 3-point try from Jamal Murray at the end. of the allotted time.
“It’s the final,” Adebayo said. “We emptied one.”
Game 3 is Wednesday night in Miami.
Max Strus scored 14 and Duncan Robinson had 10 – all in the fourth – for the Heat, who had a big lead early on and then fell to 15. They had no answers for Jokic, who had 16 for 28 from the floor, the last of those shots a 4-footer with 36 seconds left to get the Nuggets in the three.
Denver chose not to foul on Miami’s ensuing possession and it paid off. Butler missed a 3-point attempt, and with a tie chance, Murray missed a 3-point try at the buzzer.
“I just disputed it,” Butler said. “I’m pretty glad he missed it.”
Denver lost at home for the first time since March 30 and for the first time in 10 home playoff games this year. And just as he did after a Game 1 win, Nuggets coach Michael Malone sounded the alarm after a Game 2 loss.
“Let’s talk effort,” Malone said. “I mean, it’s the NBA Finals and we’re talking about effort. It’s a huge concern for me. You probably thought I was making up a story after the first game when I I said we didn’t play well. We didn’t play well. … It’s not preseason. It’s not regular season. It’s the NBA Finals.
Murray had 18 points and 10 assists for Denver, while Aaron Gordon had 12 points and Bruce Brown scored 11.
“They just played hard, and like I said, it was more discipline,” Murray said. “It’s a loss when you give up on mistake after mistake, and it’s not them beating you, you’re giving them open dunks or open shots. It’s hard to come back from that. »
Strus, who was 0 of 10 in Game 1, made four 3-pointers in the first quarter of Game 2. Butler popped in with 4:56 left in the first quarter to put Miami up 21-10, tying the second-biggest lead any opponent Denver had built so far in this playoff.
In a flash, he was gone – and then some.
The Nuggets outscored Miami 32-11 over the next 9 minutes, turning the double-digit deficit into a double-digit lead thanks to an outright 3-point play-off.
In 70 seconds at the start of the second quarter, Denver had four 3-pointers — more points than Miami had in that entire 9-minute streak — and they came from four different players: Brown, then Jeff Green , then Murray, then Gordon.
Boom, boom, boom and boom. Murray had five straight points to end the flurry, and Denver led 44-32 at the end. It looked like everything was going Denver’s way.
Miami insisted otherwise. And for the 44th time this season, the Heat have won a game by five points or less. None of them were bigger than this one.
“As far as the wire goes,” Vincent said, “we’re oddly comfortable.”
Heat: Miami changed its starting line-up, with Kevin Love back in the top five and Caleb Martin – who missed practice on Saturday due to illness – coming off the bench. … The Heat earned their 13th victory of these playoffs, breaking a tie with the 1999 New York Knicks for most ever by a No. 8 seed.
Nuggets: Jokic became the 14th different player in NBA history to score at least 41 goals in a Finals loss. … Denver hadn’t lost a game since May 7 — four weeks ago. … Nuggets legends Alex English, LaPhonso Ellis (who actually ended his NBA career with Miami) and David Thompson were among those in attendance.
Injured Heat guard Tyler Herro went 2-for-2 on Saturday as he continues to try and come back from a broken hand at some point in these Finals – but sat out. Herro was injured in the first half of Game 1 of Round 1 at Milwaukee. His status for Game 3 is unclear.
Commissioner Adam Silver told NBA TV ahead of the game that negotiations for the next media rights deal are now a priority since the new collective bargaining agreement was ratified – and how expansion talks will come after that.
Silver said he thinks negotiations on the media deal will begin “probably next spring.” And after that, plans to add franchises will be the next item on the to-do list.
“We don’t have anything specific in mind right now,” Silver said. “But I think over time, if you’re a successful organization, it makes sense to keep growing. There’s no doubt that there are a lot of great cities that we wish we had in the NBA.
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