Miami Heat won the second game against Denver Nuggets and tied the NBA finals
Miami Heat did it again. Like they did against the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round, against the New York Knicks in the second and against the Boston Celtics in the third. Not so fast, Denver Nuggets: Haven't heard the bell yet.
Resilience. That is the word that defines this pack of prey dogs that don't give up anything. Who fight each ball like the last one. They emerge from the hell of the matches and stand back to back to combat whatever adversity comes their way.
If the NBA had a "people's team," it would be Erik Spoelstra's Heat. Get up, dust yourself off and continue. Sounds simple, but there's nothing more difficult to sustain than that hive mind ready to emerge from hell when you need it.
On Sunday, in Game 2, the Heat were down 15 points and rallied to win the game. The most impressive thing is that we all thought something like this could happen. When did we see Jimmy Butler and company throw in the towel early? Never.
The cold numbers say it, this was the seventh time Miami has rallied from a double-digit gap this postseason. It is the most for a team in the same playoff course in the last 25 years.
Welcome then to the confirmation that a special team is among us. Just as the Nuggets aren't just Nikola Jokic, the Heat aren't just Butler. Unsung heroes appear and disappear at the speed of a snap of the fingers.
Spoelstra has used his cards with wisdom, discipline and effort. It is not about knowing or saying what to do, but about getting the players to translate the strategy and tactics into fluid execution.
The Heat modified their defense to Jokic. Instead of doubling him on a recurring basis, they defended him without much help so that he wins his points one on one. But as Spoelstra says, it was much more than what "the untrained eye" sees.
However, it worked as planned. The Serb finished with 41 points, but had just four assists and Denver's ecosystem took a hit. Here's a piece of ESPN Stats: The Nuggets are 0-3 when Jokic scores 40 or more points in the playoffs and 13-1 when he scores fewer than 40.
Returning Kevin Love to the rotation, an intelligent veteran who knows how to defend very well, gave Miami air and solutions in the game without the ball. The team grew in size and that upset everyone. Especially to the Serbian crack.
On offense, the situation for the Heat is as simple as this: bring it in from the outside to win. And for that, they need to be aggressive by attacking the key, breaking and unloading, passing the ball and making open shots.
They turned that run around for the better, going from 13-39 (33%) in Game 1 from behind the arc to 17-35 (49%) in the second. Mobility is everything: They were 15-25 on passing 3s.
"These are the Finals. We're talking about effort and that has me very worried," Mike Malone said. "Our defense has to be much better. The last quarters of Game 1 and Game 2, our work without the ball didn't exist."
These are the sixth Finals that Spoelstra has coached. Each game is a different story, but the Miami coach knows how to peek through the lock to find small advantages that equalize forces.
Will we finally be in the presence of a sports miracle that began two months ago in the play-in? We'll see.
We can truly say: Welcome to the NBA Finals.
We were waiting for you.
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