Denver Nuggets Are Ready To Bounce Back After NBA Finals Game 2 Loss

The Denver Nuggets did not look like themselves in Game 2 of the NBA Finals.

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Not only did they drop their first home game all postseason after nine straight victories at Ball Arena, but the Nuggets also relinquished their homecourt advantage; the Miami HEAT have three home games to Denver’s two to close out the NBA Finals.

NBA Finals 2023 primer: Everything to know about the Denver Nuggets | FOX  Sports

“If we play like that, then we expect to lose like that,” said Jamal Murray after the game. “We can’t play like that, so if we play away, home, on the road, doesn’t matter. We’ve got to have a better showing.”

Nuggets: Biggest adjustments to make after Game 2 loss to Heat

It was a strange outing for the group. Denver, an offense that is typically democratic, only had one starter finish with 20+ points: Nikola Jokić dropped a monstrous 41 points to go with 11 rebounds. However, he only recorded 4 total assists, his fewest in any 2023 postseason game.

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There was a lot of chatter from pundits about whether Miami “solved” Denver by turning Jokić into a scorer instead of a passer, a theory that HEAT head coach Erik Spoelstra refuted vehemently after Game 2. Yet, for all the speculation, Denver finished Game 2 with a 124.1 offensive rating, an offensive efficiency better than what they put up against the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Finals. Scoring wasn’t the issue.

The Miami Heat roar back in Game 2 to tie the Denver Nuggets in NBA Finals  | KEYE

What doomed the Nuggets, outside of letting Miami outscore them 36-25 in the fourth quarter, was their defense. Denver allowed Miami to score 129.1 points per 110 possessions in Game 2. More importantly, the HEAT made 17 three-pointers and shot a scintillating 48.9 percent on those looks. Of those 17 made three-pointers, 11 of them were labeled as “open” according to the NBA’s tracking data.

The Miami Heat roar back in Game 2 to tie the Denver Nuggets in NBA Finals  | The Seattle Times

Denver gave Miami, the postseason’s best three-point shooting team, looks from distance all night long. Whiffed switches, miscommunications, and a general lack of being on the same page with their schemes were the catalysts.

The Miami Heat roar back in Game 2 to tie the Denver Nuggets in NBA Finals

“Today, we had a lot of miscommunication and misunderstandings. They were getting open looks, especially at the beginning of the game,” said Jokić after Game 2. “And they had a couple at the end of the game, too. So we just need to know where to be, what to do, what the coverage (is), or whatever.”

Miami Heat steal Game 2 from Denver Nuggets, tie NBA Finals -

Everything about Game 2 was an anomaly for Denver. Its starters entered Sunday with the best offensive rating among any playoff starting group, averaging 123.6 points scored per 100 possessions. Though Denver scored at an above-average rate in the totality of Game 2, its starters mustered up just 110 points per 100 possessions. Again, it was as weird of a showing as the Nuggets have had in the postseason.

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Jeff Green attributed the sluggishness on offense to their defensive miscues. Denver’s starters opened Game 2 in a 10-2 hole after allowing two easy threes from Max Strus. They were behind the 8-ball from the get-go.

Heat roar back in the 4th quarter, beat Nuggets to tie NBA Finals

“I think it’s the defense that impacted the offense. We allowed them to get comfortable, easy looks,” said Green. “Our discipline wasn’t as great. Fouling jump shooters, allowing easy cuts. We wasn’t ourselves tonight. Our communication has to be way better going into Game 3, and I think that was the reason they got into the lead.”

Head coach Michael Malone was a little harsher with his evaluation of the team’s performance. Yes, defense was an issue. But according to Malone, the issue was on a more human level.

The Miami Heat roar back in Game 2 to tie the Denver Nuggets in NBA Finals  |

“Let’s talk about effort. I mean, this is NBA Finals. We’re talking about effort. That’s a huge concern of mine,” said Malone. “This is not the preseason. It’s not the regular season. This is the NBA Finals. And that, to me, is really, really perplexing. Disappointing. I asked the team. I said, ‘You guys tell me why we lost?’ And they knew the answer. Miami came in here and outworked us.”

Rookie Christian Braun echoed his coach’s sentiments about Denver’s effort being the issue. He also gave Miami kudos for their grittiness throughout the contest.

“We just didn’t play hard enough from the jump. They played really well,” said Braun about Game 2. “That’s how they win games; they punch people in the mouth early and out-tough you. They did that and we got to bounce back.”

WATCH: Nikola Jokic makes pretty touch pass to Aaron Gordon in Game 2  against Heat

Still, it’s not time to panic just yet. Denver has a golden opportunity to take one (or two) games on the road in Games 3 and 4. The HEAT are just 6-2 at home. Denver’s done that numerous times throughout these playoffs, taking one road game off the Minnesota Timberwolves in Round 1, one road game off the Phoenix Suns in the Semi-Finals, and two road games off the Los Angeles Lakers.

“We’ve won on the road before,” said Green. “I think we understand what’s at stake. They did what they were supposed to do. They came in here, got a split. Now they’re going home, and I think we have to go in there worried about Game 3. We can’t worry about Game 4. We have to worry about Game 3. We know we have to be better defensively. Our energy has to be better, and then get that win when we play Wednesday.”

NBA Finals: Miami Heat entzaubern Denver Nuggets und Nikola Jokic | Sport |

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