The third game of the NBA final between the Nuggets and the Heat ended with the defeat of the latter – 94:109. Historic performances by Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray helped Denver to an important road win and 2-1 series lead: For the first time in history, two players from the same team scored a triple-double with 30 points.
Before this, this didn’t happen, not just in the playoffs, but even in regular season games, not to mention the final series. For two, Jokic and Murray scored as many as the Heat’s entire starting five, while also adding more rebounds and assists.
The “Hit” fans left the arena in advance. Denver takes the lead again in the NBA Finals!
Jokic had 32 points, 10 assists and 21 rebounds. The absolute record for rebounds is still far away: Bill Russell once delivered 40 twice. But the Serb became the first who managed to surpass the mark of 30 points, 20 rebounds and 10 assists in the NBA Finals game. Plus, he’s now the only basketball player in league history with 10 triple-doubles in a playoff career.
Nikola reacted to his achievement, as always, modestly:
“If we lost, no one would mention it. To be honest, I don’t care. They’re just statistics.”
Murray had 34 points and 10 assists and rebounds. He grabbed his 10th rebound just nine seconds before the end of the game, becoming the third defenseman to record a triple-double with 30 points in the final series. Before him, only Stephen Curry and Jerry West managed to do this. He also became the third player in history to record 10 or more assists in three consecutive NBA Finals games.
Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray
Photo: Jamie Schwaberow/Getty Images
Head coach Mike Malone called it the duo’s best performance in seven years on the same team. But even setting aside his historic performance, Denver was simply better than its opponent in Game 3.
The Nuggets had a very important task: not to give Miami the final segment. On the eve of the third game, the Heat were -24 points apart in the first three quarters and up to +90 in the fourth. But this time, the decisive 12 minutes remained for Denver: 27:26.
“In the first two games they won the last quarter. Today we won the fourth quarter, and we won,” Malone said after the game.
22-year-old Christian Brown unexpectedly helped Denver get the best of an opponent in the fourth quarter. Having received the ball on a fast break, he met resistance in the face of the formidable Jimmy Butler, but he wasn’t afraid to make contact and hit that layup. The shot forced Eric Spoelstra into a timeout and gave the Nuggets a +21 lead. For Brown himself, he was the 15th point, making him the third leading scorer on his team. In 19 minutes off the bench, the 21st pick in the 2022 draft has made 7 of 8 shots from the field, the same number as in the previous seven games combined.
At the same time, the Heat, with let’s call them supporting players, fared much worse. Early in the second quarter, Caleb Martin steeled himself: He scored eight straight points, hitting two 3-pointers and a layup in transition after losing Jokic. But after that, he, like the rest of Miami, with the exception of Butler and Bam Adebayo, faded away. They didn’t show his best game either, but Martin scored just two points in the remaining 30 minutes, while the Heat made just 37% of their shots from the field and 31.4% from behind the arc. The absence of even a third attacking option felt like never before: without the help of Martin, Duncan Robinson, Gabe Vincent and Max Strass, the Heat were more difficult than usual. And if they want to counter Denver’s solid offense, they’ll have to close the holes in theirs first. Maybe even bring back Tyler Harrow early, who is still recovering from a broken arm.
Photo: Mike Ehrman/Getty Images
In addition, in the third game, the Nuggets were not only good in attack. The dimensions that allowed them to literally crush the “Slam” in the “paint” and score 60 points from there also came in handy on the other end of the site. Miami players made just 38.2% of their shots from within 2.5 meters of the rim and made 17 of 46 shots both inside and outside the three-second zone. His offensive rating was just 102.2, 12.8 less than the current playoff average.
“They just squashed us in the paint. They didn’t have to shoot triples. They had, how many are there, 60 points in “painting”? There was no need to create space on the site. And we didn’t put up much resistance. Yeah, you have to give him size and stuff, but we’ve shown that we can end up in the ‘paint’ when we’re at our best,” Heat coach Eric Spoelstra said after the game.
This loss was the Heat’s third straight loss on their own site. Before that, they lost to Boston in Game 4 and Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Game 4 of the series will also take place in Miami, where the Larry O’Brien trophy has already been awarded. Will the Heat have any chance of catching him? We will know on the night of June 10. The meeting begins at 3:30 Moscow time.