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The Denver Nuggets looked like they were going to cruise to a 2-0 series lead in the NBA Finals and remain undefeated on their home floor.
Until they didn’t.
Denver wasted a Nikola Jokić scoring masterclass and blew a 15-point first half lead at Ball Arena en route to a 111-108 loss to the Miami Heat in Game 2 on Sunday night. Miami looked to turn Jokić into a scorer and it was effective as most of the Nuggets’ roster struggled to get going.
The two-time MVP dropped 41 points on 16-of-28 shooting to go along with 11 rebounds and just four assists, well below his usual passing production. Only two other players in the Nuggets’ starting five finished in double figures.
Four out of their five starters reached that mark in the team’s dominant Game 1 win.
The Nuggets went down 12 points early in the first quarter but their bench unit gave them a huge boost, helping lead them on a 23-5 run to give them a 15-point lead at one point in the second quarter.
However, the Heat’s zone caused Denver some issues, especially in the fourth when they outscored the home team 36-25 to knot the series at a game apiece.
Despite the late struggles, Denver still had a chance to tie the game at the buzzer but didn’t manage to convert.
Fans on Twitter were naturally rueing the missed opportunity with a 2-0 series lead there for the taking.
Jamal Murray had a chance to tie the game at the end 👀 pic.twitter.com/EMbC8pRePi
Aaron M. @amcfarla
The starters minus Jokic tonight have a total of 32 points. Jokic needs some help. #MileHighBasketball
Long Tan & Handsome @tensaiarmando
Denver players outside of jokic…. pic.twitter.com/TT4Za0u4ox
Kyle Seeley @PresidentSeeley
Jokic is single handedly keeping the Nuggets in this game. He has 35 and only one other player is in double figures. Murray has 10. No one else is playing well at all
Bobby Marks @BobbyMarks42
Denver 3-7 during the regular season when Nikola Jokic had 6 assists or less.
Tonight 4 assists
Harrison Wind @HarrisonWind
Nikola Jokic has scored 40+ points three times in these playoffs. Denver is 0-3 in those games. Nuggets have only lost four games all playoffs. They’re at their best when everyone’s cooking.
As the series shifts to Miami, the Nuggets will be looking to get back to their bread and butter and make Jokić a facilitator again.
Jamal Murray had 18 points on an inefficient 7-of-15 shooting from the floor and Aaron Gordon had 12 points. Aside from that duo, Denver suffered greatly from being knocked out of their normal offensive rhythm.
Coach Michael Malone will be hoping to find an answer to Miami’s zone over the next couple games and regain control of the series.
Game 3 of the Finals is set for Wednesday night at 8:30 p.m. ET on ABC.