Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray dominated the Miami Heat, both making triple-doubles as the Denver Nuggets took a 2-1 lead in the NBA Finals with a 109-94 win in game three on Wednesday.
Two-time NBA Most Valuable Player Jokic scored 32 points with 21 rebounds and 10 assists, an unprecedented triple-double combination in an NBA Finals game.
Murray scored 34 points and grabbed 10 rebounds and 10 assists — completing his own triple-double with a rebound in the waning seconds.
It was the first time any team in a Finals had two players making triple-doubles in the same game — and the first time in any NBA game, regular season or playoffs, that two teammates posted 30-point triple-doubles.
Miami simply could not find a way to handle the 6 foot, 11-inch (2.11m) Jokic and unless coach Erik Spoelstra can come up with a plan before Friday’s game four, the Heat are going to face an uphill battle.
Jokic became the first player in NBA history to reach the 30 points, 20 rebounds, 10 assists mark in a Finals game but took little interest in that achievement.
“I’m just glad that we won a game,” he said.
Denver head coach Michael Malone was full of appreciation for his two game-winners.
“Regarding Nikola, nothing he does surprises me, ever. This guy has shown time and time again that he’s built for these moments. He thrives in these moments, the biggest stage and he did that once again tonight,” he said.
“I’m really proud of Jamal and I could tell being around him the last 48 hours he was putting a lot of game two on him. And it wasn’t just him, it was me and every one of our players. But that’s what champions do. That’s what warriors do, they battle back,” he said.
After Miami’s win in Denver on Sunday, the Nuggets provided the perfect response with the kind of imposing display that Malone had demanded after heavily criticizing his players.
Neither team could get on top in the first quarter, which ended 24-24 after a wonderful turnaround, fadeaway, jump shot from Miami’s Kyle Lowry.
But the Heat struggled to contain Murray, who put up 20 points in the first half, while Jokic almost had a triple double by half-time — the giant Serbian claiming 14 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists in the opening two quarters.
The Nuggets led 53-48 at the half, helped by Miami’s lack of precision in the paint where they missed 16 of 25 attempts.
Early in the third though, Denver took a grip on the contest, quickly opening up an 11-point lead. Miami couldn’t find either the defensive answers or the offensive potency to get back in the game.
Denver had pushed the lead to 21 with 8:28 left in the fourth quarter and although Miami narrowed the deficit as the Nuggets took their foot off the gas, a third straight loss on home court leaves Spoelstra with plenty to ponder.
Miami, seeking to be the first eighth-seed to win the finals, have made a habit of fighting back whenever they have been written off but the combination of Jokic and Murray on-form leaves no room for such a below-par performance.
“It’s a great duo. Their games really complement each other,” said Spoelstra.
“You have to expect there to be elite talent in the Finals. Both those guys are elite-level talent.
“At our best version, we find ways to overcome that, make it tough on them and then certainly not lose the overwhelming majority of those physical battles, the 50/50 battles, the ball in the air, ball on the floor battles,” he said.
Jimmy Butler led Miami with 28 points while Bam Adebayo had 22 points and 17 rebounds but combined they shot just 10 of 30 in the paint.
Denver won the rebound battle 58-33 and Butler said they had to find their edge again in game four.
“We didn’t play our best tonight. I feel like we just got to come out with more energy and effort, and that’s correctible. That’s on us as a group,” he said.
World Cup News
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez on Tuesday blasted as “insufficient” the apology given by...
Spain’s Women’s World Cup hero Olga Carmona paid tribute to her father on Monday...
Spain midfielder Jenni Hermoso defended Spanish football federation president Luis Rubiales after he came...
Sunday’s World Cup final between England and Spain is the final act of a...