Denver is almost there. In search of the first NBA championship title in their history, the Nuggets won in Miami (95-108) last night, during the fourth round of the Finals, under the eyes of actors Forest Whitaker and Chris Tucker, of the MMA star Conor McGregor or footballers Paul Pogba, Vinicius and Neymar. They now lead 3-1 in the series and will have a first opportunity to conclude on the night of Monday to Tuesday (2:30 am), in front of their public. As a reminder, we only saw one team win the crown after being down 1-3 in the final, it was Cleveland, against the Warriors, in 2016.
Mission impossible for the Heat? Seeing the ankle of Nikola Jokic (23 pts, 12 rbs) turn at the very beginning of the meeting, we remembered that everything can change in an instant… Ditto when the double MVP suffered his fifth foul in the last quarter- time. But the Colorado club has so many weapons, too many for the Florida squad, at least so far. Jamal Murray made people forget his clumsiness (15 pts, 5/17) with his 12 assists and no loss of ball. And the lieutenants raised their level, in particular Aaron Gordon, author of 15 of his 27 points in the second quarter, and Bruce Brown, "ultra-clutch", he who split 11 of his 21 points in the last act . Even Michael Porter Jr (7 pts), struggling in the series, put his nose to the window, while Jeff Green (3 pts) returned a basket that counts double, his only match, at a key moment. 25 points from Jimmy Butler on the Miami side, and 20 points-11 rebounds from Bam Adebayo, almost a triple-double with… ball losses (8). 13 points from Kyle Lowry and 12 from Duncan Robinson.
Closed start to the match, with little success and the Heat blocked at 11 points after 10 minutes (11-18), before… slamming ten – including seven for Butler alone – to take the lead at the end of 12 minutes inaugural (21-20). Well paid… The main thing, however, was that Jokic's right ankle spun. If he played the entire first quarter, the Serb went to the locker room before the start of the second quarter, which he started on the bench. Back to business with just under 8 minutes to play, with a bomb from more than 8 meters to give control to his team (30-33, then 30-35). Before that, Robinson and Gordon were the talk of the town. On fire, the latter continued its momentum (34-41). Customer bonus, it caused Gabe Vincent's third foul. Tightrope walker number, big dunk on an offering from Lowry… Caleb Martin was doing the show. But Denver was just a notch above, like this delicious alley-oop, "KCP" for Gordon, again him (41-48, then 45-54). On a thread, Miami redid the blow of the first quarter, with a late “run” thanks to this trickster Lowry and this buffalo Adebayo, to be credited with two big, big dunks (51-55 MT).
If Kevin Love (12 pts), heroic, remembered everyone, with two triples, a three-point action or a huge rebound, the Colorado machine was launched (61-74). Big defense, Jokic maneuvering, licked game… Miami still backs to the hard, but Miami never died (68-74). “We play as if we were at -10 when we are at 8, we have to calm down”, got angry Mike Malone, who had plenty of time to restore order since Adebayo, on an attempted dunk , had shifted the circle… Intervention of the officials (photo below), but more fear than harm. The game resumed sooner than expected.
At least after the evacuation on a stretcher of a spectator, victim of a malaise. On the other hand, it went well for Brown, thank you for him. And it wasn't over. This caviar from Jokic for Gordon… Régalade. We went blow for blow but after this last triple signed Gordon in the corner, 13 Nuggets at the start of the last quarter (73-86).
Pivotal moment with 9'24 to play: fifth foul for Jokic, at 76-86. The "Joker" on the bench, the Kaseya Center on fire after a three-point action from Butler (81-86). What if, what if… Murray calmed the ambient euphoria (81-89) and the Heat wasted cartridges, like this umpteenth failure by Adebayo near the circle or this interception of “KCP” in the hands of a flabby Butler. Grandpa Green's triple did the Nuggets a lot of good (85-94), 9 on Jokic's return, with 4'09 to play (87-96). The storm had passed. The final deluge was soon to fall on the heads of Butler and company. Murray? Jokic? No. X factor of the day, Brown put the lid on, with the help of “KCP” (91-108, then 95-108 final score).
Denver's first of three title shots on Monday at the Ball Arena. From now on, it will be life and death for Erik Spoelstra's players, who missed a (very) good opportunity last night... By then, Victor Wembanyama's Mets will have attacked their final against Monaco. Match 1 Saturday (8:30 p.m.), at Gaston-Médecin.
2023 NBA Finals schedule and results: Game 1: Denver-Miami 104-93 Game 2: Denver-Miami 108-111 Game 3: Miami-Denver 94-109 Game 4: Miami-Denver 95-108 (Denver leads 3-1) Game 5 : Denver-Miami, on the night of June 12 to 13 (2h30)
If necessaryMatch 6: Miami-Denver, on the night of June 15 to 16 (2h30)Match 7: Denver-Miami, on the night of June 18 to 19 (2h)