Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets are now just one win away from their first NBA title.
The Nuggets, after nearly losing Jokic with an ankle injury early and then late again with a foul problem, pulled off another run in the second half and held on late to hold off the Miami Heat 108-95 Friday night at the Casilla Center in Miami. The Nuggets now lead 3-1 in the series before Game 5 Monday night, when they can secure their first championship at Ball Arena in Denver.
Joki turned his ankle hard near the end of the first quarter when he landed on the foot of Heat guard Max Stross. 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 just fine. He dug a deep 3-pointer almost immediately upon his return to the game, and finished the first half with 16 points and five rebounds. The Nuggets led by five points in the first half.
Then, as has already happened several times this season, the Nuggets took over in the third quarter. They opened the period 10-4, giving them their first double-digit lead of the game.
Although the period got a little weird near the end — there was a roughly eight-minute break that included a broken rim caused by a dunk by Bam Adebayo, a fan who had a medical emergency behind the Heat bench and a heated discussion of pickles on ABC — Gordon turned an alley from Jokić hit a late three-pointer to send Denver back by 13 entering the final quarter.
The Heat capitalized on a somewhat foul call on Jokić early in the fourth that sent him to the bench for most of the period. Well, at least they did right away. Miami cut the game down to five points almost immediately, and seemed poised to make a run and even up the series. But this was the closest they got.
The Nuggets kept the Heat at arm’s length until Jokić came back close to the four-minute mark, finding an answer on nearly every offense before stopping Miami’s offense almost completely. The Heat only scored four points in more than four straight minutes late as 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 put up 21 points off the bench. Nuggets shoot 50% from behind the three-point line.
Jimmy Butler led the Heat with 25 points, seven rebounds and seven assists. Adebayo added 20 points and 11 rebounds.
The fifth game of the series is set on a Monday night in Denver.
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