Heat handle ‘adversity’ again, tie NBA Finals 2023

DENVER — Jimmy Butler believes there is a simple reason the Miami Heat remain so resilient throughout the most unlikely postseason run in recent memory in NBA.

After finishing off a 111-108-win over the Denver Nuggets in Game 2 of the NBA Finals on Sunday night, evening the series at 1-1, Butler offered an explanation as to why this particular group, the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference, continues to find a way to win games.

“I just think nobody cares on our team,” Butler said, after scoring 21 points and dishing out nine assists in 40 minutes. “We’re not worried about what anybody thinks. We’re so focused in on what we do well and who we are as a group that at the end of the day, that’s what we fall back on. Make or miss shots, we’re going to be who we are because we’re not worried about anybody else. That’s how it’s been all year long, and that’s not going to change. So that’s what I think it is. I think it’s the ‘I don’t give a damn’ factor.”

Both Butler and Heat coach Erik Spoelstra have repeatedly praised their tough-minded group for being able to find ways to win no matter the circumstances. It’s a mantra the veteran coach hit on again after the Heat’s most important win to date.

“We faced a lot of adversity during the season,” Spoelstra said. “We handled it the right way where you are not making excuses about it, the injuries, the changing 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.

“We want to be able to have that privilege of having adversity and being able to overcome it. You gain strength from that. But this is a very tough opponent. They have our full respect, for sure.”

As usual, it was a variety of Spoelstra’s players who helped pick up the slack. Down by as many as 15 in the first half, the Heat climbed their way back into yet another game by leaning on Gabe Vincent, who scored a team-high 23 points and hit several key shots for a team that had to pick up Butler, who struggled to find his offensive rhythm until hitting several key shots late.

Duncan Robinson scored all 10 of his points in the fourth quarter. Max Strus added 14 after going 0-for-10 in Game 1. Bam Adebayo had another big night with 21 points and nine rebounds. Kevin Love, who hadn’t played since Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals, started and grabbed 10 rebounds in 22 minutes.

“It’s just part of our DNA, for one,” Vincent said. “You know, everyone on this team has battled through adversity in some manner and been knocked down and had to get back up. And for No. 2, we have a lot of experience in these close games. So when it comes down to the wire, we are strangely comfortable.”

Vincent continues to thrive on the game’s biggest stages and has become an integral part of the Heat’s success. The group trusts him to deliver when its need a lift.

“Undrafted players can start in the Finals,” Adebayo said, while describing what Vincent continues to prove. “It doesn’t mean anything that he’s undrafted. He’s giving guys who are going through his path or down that road of, you’re not this, you’re not that, you’re not this, and he’s carving a space for himself. I feel like a lot of people are going to know who Gabe Vincent is.”

After going to the free throw line just two times in Game 1, and getting knocked around at times by Nuggets star Nikola Jokic and company, the Heat made a point to be more aggressive, showing once again what has made them so mentally strong during this run. Adebayo noted that part of the edge comes from the fact that the group has heard some of the doubts people have had about their run.

“Biggest thing for us, we heard the noise throughout the whole playoffs,” Adebayo said. “Biggest thing for us, we had the will and we had the belief, and we keep finding ways to win.

DENVER ― Miami’s Jimmy Butler had an escape room outing planned for Saturday.

It was a metaphor.

The Heat unlocked the door to victory, beating the Denver Nuggets 111-108 in Game 2 of the NBA Finals on Sunday, tying the best-of-seven series 1-1 and adding intrigue.

Denver’s Jamal Murray missed a 3-point attempt at the buzzer that could’ve forced overtime.

Miami used an impressive fourth quarter, overcoming an 83-75 deficit and outscoring the Nuggets 36-25 in the final 12 minutes. Gabe Vincent led Miami with 23 points, Bam Adebayo added 21 points and nine rebounds and Butler finished with 21 points and nine assists.

The series moves to Miami for the next two games with Game 3 on Wednesday (8:30 p.m. ET, ABC).

The Heat were better in the second game after a sluggish performance in Game 1 coming off a seven-game Eastern Conference finals series against Boston.

They did what they said they would do. The Heat were more aggressive, made more 3-pointers, shot 20 free throws, 18 more than they did in Game 1, and limited the scoring of Denver players not named Nikola Jokic. He scored 18 of his game-high 41 points in the third quarter.

The Heat, who have won at least one road game in the opening two games of a playoff series this season, made a decision: Jokic will score. Don’t let the rest of the Nuggets beat you. Jamal Murray had just 18 points after 26 points and 10 assists in Game 1, Michael Porter Jr. had just five points and six rebounds after 14 and 12 in the opener and Aaron Gordon had 12 points after 16 in Game 1.

The Heat made 17 shots from behind the arc on 48.6% shooting, a significant improvement over 33.3% shooting in Game 1.

NBA

How many points did Nikola Jokic score?

Jokic led all scorers with 41 points in the game, but it wasn’t enough for the Nuggets to take a 2-0 series lead over the Heat. He scored 18 in the third quarter but was held in check by Miami in the fourth. He also finished with just four assists. Jokic’s 68 combined points in Games 1 and 2 are tied with Kevin Durant for the third-most points in the first two games of an NBA Finals series in history.

How many points did Jimmy Butler score?

Butler finished with 21 points and connected on some clutch buckets in Miami’s fourth-quarter comeback win. He added nine assists and pulled down four rebounds. His 21 points were tied with Bam Adebayo for second-most for the Heat, two points shy of Gabe Vincent’s team-high 23 points.

Nikola Jokic makes history during Game 2

Nikola Jokic made history Sunday when he became the first center in NBA history to accumulate both at least 500 points and 100 assists in a single postseason, according to the league.

The two-time MVP achieved the mark toward the end of the third quarter in Game 2 of the NBA Finals against the Miami Heat. He was leading the Nuggets with 31 points and added three assists at the time. He had 18 points in the third quarter alone.

Jokic made history earlier in the postseason when he broke Wilt Chamberlain’s record with his eighth triple-double of the playoffs. In Game 4 of the Western Conference finals — when the Nuggets swept the Los Angeles Lakers — he finished with 30 points, 14 rebounds and 13 assists and was named the series MVP.

In Game 1 of the NBA Finals when Denver beat the Heat 104-93, Jokic finished with 27 points, 10 rebounds and 14 assists. He didn’t make his first basket, which was also his first shot attempt, until the seconds of the first quarter.

End 3: Nuggets 83, Heat 75

After two quarters with massive runs by both teams — a scorching start by the Heat followed by a strong response from the Nuggets — Miami and Denver traded blows in a closely contested third quarter that saw the home team hold a slim 83-75 lead with one quarter to play in Game 2.

Nuggets star Nikola Jokic, who spent much of the second quarter on the bench, scored 18 points in the third quarter to buoy Denver’s chances at taking a 2-0 series lead. He scored the team’s final nine points in the frame.

Jokic had everything in the first three quarters. Scoring from the post, around the rim and beyond the arc — not to mention supremely creative passing — which undoubtedly had Heat defenders wondering what the big man would attempt next.

Half: Nuggets 57, Heat 51

The Denver Nuggets took their first lead of Game 2 at 11:04 in the second quarter when Jeff Green was fouled on a fast break layup. Green made both free throws to make it a 27-26 game.

The Nuggets scored four straight three-point buckets to extend their lead to 39-29. The streak was broken by a trey from Gabe Vincent, but Denver had all the momentum as they went on a 21-6 run to start the quarter — all without Nikola Jokic, who was resting on the bench.

Jamal Murray had eight points in the quarter, including one of the three-point buckets and a back-to-back layup and jumper. He didn’t score in the opening period.

Max Strus only made a pair of free throws in the second quarter and still leads the Heat with 14 points, followed by 12 from Vincent and 11 from Jimmy Butler.

Jokic still leads the Nuggets with 13 points.

Much of the Denver run came with Nuggets star Nikola Jokic on the bench. It was Jamal Murray who took charge in his absence, beginning the quarter with eight points.

Miami was 6 of 11 from beyond the arc to start the game, but the Heat still couldn’t keep pace with Denver’s hot shooting.

End 1: Heat 26, Nuggets 23

Miami got exactly what it wanted to start Game 2. Coming out with a sense of urgency and aggressiveness, the Heat built a 21-10 lead in the first quarter. Miami’s Max Strus, who was 0-for-9 on 3-pointers in Game 1, made his first two from beyond the arc in Game 2 and helped the Heat to a 10-2 lead, forcing Denver to call a timeout less than three minutes into the game. He made another 3 later in the quarter, putting Miami up 19-10, and he had 12 points in the opening 12 minutes.

Miami’s Jimmy Butler, who didn’t attempt a free throw in Game 1 after averaging 9.1 attempts in the three previous rounds, got to the foul line in the first quarter as he made good on his promise to be more aggressive.

The Nuggets missed seven of their first 10 shots, and Jamal Murray was scoreless in the first quarter. Denver settled in offensively late in the quarter, thanks to Nikola Jokic who had 11 points in the first. 

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