Although Nikola Jokic scored 41 points, the Denver Nuggets could not avoid suffering their first loss at Ball Arena since March 30.
The Nuggets lost a 16-point lead over the Heat on their way to a 111-108 loss to the eighth-seeded Heat, who used the advantage of playing at home away from the top-seeded Denver Nuggets.
“Miami came in and outworked us,” the coach of the Nuggets, Michael Malone, remarked with displeasure. “…I told our guys that if we had won this game tonight, we would have stolen one.”
They came very close to pulling out the heist as well.
However, Jamal Murray’s 3-pointer in the final seconds of the game struck the front of the iron, and Caleb Martin, who was replaced in the starting lineup by Kevin Love, grabbed the rebound. This resulted in the Nuggets suffering their first loss in 10 home playoff games for Denver.
When including postseason play, Denver entered the game with an NBA best 43-7 record at home and had not suffered a home defeat in the previous 66 days.
When Jokic scores 40 points, however, the Nuggets still haven’t won a game in the playoffs, and their record is now 0-3. In the second half, he was responsible for 28 of their 51 points, as he was required to go it alone for large portions of the game.
The audience was highly boisterous as the Nuggets entered the fourth quarter with an eight-point advantage and appeared to be on their way to take a 2-0 lead in the series. However, Heat reserve Duncan Robinson scored 10 points in a hurry, and suddenly, the Nuggets found themselves in a difficult position.
The Heat took command of the game with a run of 29-10 to start the fourth quarter, which allowed them to establish a 104-93 lead with under five minutes remaining in regulation.
Jokic, who entered the postseason averaging a triple-double for the series, finished with 11 rebounds but only four assists.
Jokic also had a monster offensive game in the Nuggets’ most recent setback in these playoffs. He scored 53 points in the Nuggets’ Round 2 loss at Phoenix, which the Nuggets lost by five points.
On Sunday night, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was restricted to just six points before going to the bench due to foul trouble, and Michael Porter Jr. was only allowed five points.