Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets are now just one win away from their first NBA title.
The Nuggets, after losing Jokic early to an ankle injury and later delayed by foul trouble, held off the Miami Heat 108-95 on Friday night at the Kazeya Center in Miami. The Nuggets now hold a 3-1 series lead that could clinch their first championship at Ball Arena in Denver heading into Monday night’s Game 5.
Late in the first quarter, Jokic rolled his ankle hard after landing on the foot of Heat guard Max Struss. He left the game and briefly went to the locker room, but returned to the bench a few minutes later.
Fortunately for Denver, Jokic was fine. He drilled a deep 3-pointer immediately upon his return to the game and finished the first half with 16 points and five rebounds. The Nuggets took a five-point lead into halftime.
Then, as they have done so many times already this season, the Nuggets took over in the third quarter. They opened the period on a 10-4 run that gave them their first double-digit lead of the game.
Although the period was a little different — a roughly eight-minute span that included a broken rim due to a Bam Adebayo dunk, a medical emergency behind the Heat bench and a heated pickle debate on ABC — Gordon converted an alley-oop from Jokic and a late 3-pointer to send Denver trailing by 13 entering the final quarter. Hit the pointer.
The Heat capitalized on a generous foul call on Jokic early in the fourth that sent him to the bench for more time. Well, at least they did immediately. Miami immediately cut the game to five points and looked poised to make a run and even the series. But it looked like they were getting close.
The Nuggets kept the Heat at arm’s length until Jokic scored again near the four minute mark, coming up with an answer to every attack they made before completely shutting down Miami’s offense. The Heat scored four points late in more than four minutes, while the Nuggets ran away with a 13-point victory.
Gordon led the Nuggets with 27 points in the win. Jokic finished with 23 points and 12 rebounds. Jamal Murray added 15 points and 12 assists, while Bruce Brown benched 21 points. The Nuggets shot 50% from behind the 3-point line.
Jimmy Butler led the Heat with 25 points, seven rebounds and seven assists. Adebayo added 20 points and 11 rebounds.
Game 5 of the series is scheduled for Monday night in Denver.