Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray became the first teammates in NBA Finals history to both record triple-doubles, and Denver’s two stars made sure the Nuggets reclaimed the lead in the series by beating the Miami Heat 109-94 in Game 3 on Wednesday night.
Jokic finished with 32 points, 21 rebounds and 10 assists the first such game in NBA Finals history, or at least the first since assists were tracked. Murray had 34 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists, getting the rebound he needed with 9 seconds remaining.
The Nuggets outrebounded the Heat 58-33, and took a 2-1 lead. Game 4 is Friday in Miami.
Jimmy Butler scored 28 points for Miami, and Bam Adebayo finished with 22 points and 17 rebounds. Caleb Martin added 10 points for Miami.
Miami was struggling to shoot the ball as Denver defense stepped up after Nuggets coach Mike Malone questioned his teams desire and effort in the Game 2 loss. The Heat turned the ball over just once in the first half, but shot under 40% as Jamal Murray led the Nugs with 20 points at the break.
Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler kept the Heat in the game as Bam had another big night going for 22 and 17 rebounds, much of that coming in the first half. In the second half the Heat’s inside-out combo went cold as Miami scored just 20 points in the third and Jokic and Christian Braun stretched the Nuggets lead to 21 points.
Braun had 15 points off the bench, nine in the second half and is now one win closer to winning the NCAA title and the NBA title in back-to-back years. Braun’s energy off the bench and the Denver defense was enough keep a double-digit cushion for the rest of the game.
The lead eventually reached 21, the outcome never seriously in doubt, and Jokic looking very much like he’s back in cruise control. The Heat got within nine on a 3-pointer by Duncan Robinson with 1:22 left, but there was no epic finish for Miami.
Officially, Jokic is now the seventh player to have two triple-doubles in the same finals. Magic Johnson and LeBron James each did it in three different finals. Draymond Green, Wilt Chamberlain, Larry Bird and Butler all had one title series with two triple-doubles.
It was his 10th triple-double of these playoffs, extending his single-season record, and he was unbothered by whatever Miami threw his way. Jokic finished 12 for 21 from the floor, 7 for 8 from the line, playing 44 minutes.
Christian Braun was tremendous off the bench for the Nuggets, scoring 15 points on 7-for-8 shooting in 19 minutes. Aaron Gordon added 11 for Denver.
Miami never led in the second half. A dunk by Adebayo put the Heat up 44-42 with 3:18 left in the half, before a 3-pointer by Murray represented the seventh and final lead change of the night. It was 53-48 at halftime, before Denver pushed the lead to double digits for the first time early in the third and wound up leading by as many as 19 later in that period.
Butler returned to his postseason brilliance throughout much of the evening, leading Miami with a team-high 28 points. Adebayo was right behind him with 22 points and 17 rebounds, and thundered a vicious put-back slam on Jokić in the second quarter. But for the barrage of 3-pointers the Heat’s supporting cast contributed in Game 2, only Caleb Martin reached double-digit scoring outside of Miami’s main actors. Robinson corked a couple of late triples, enough to have Malone shaking his head and calling timeout with just over a minute remaining. Denver managed to keep the Heat at bay, however.
Paul had two years left on his four-year, $120 million deal. If he’s waived before the June 28th deadline, only $15.8 million of the $30.8 million he’s due to earn for the 2023-24 season ins guaranteed. The expectation, per Adrian Wojnarowski, is that the Suns stretch and then waive Paul’s contract to create more cap space over a longer term.
The 12-time All-Star and former Rookie of the Year is sure to be a high-profile free agent this summer even as he’s entering the final stage of his playing career. While he’s sure to be a Hall of Famer eventually, Paul has never won an NBA title. He got the Suns to the NBA Finals in his first season there, but they fell to the Milwaukee Bucks.
Nikola Jokic makes NBA Finals history with triple-double
Jokic recorded the first 30-point, 20-rebound triple-double in Finals history. He also extended his NBA single-season, playoff triple-double record to 10 games, recording another one midway through the fourth quarter with an assist. Jokic had 30 points, 20 rebounds and 10 assists with 5:48 left in the fourth quarter. It was his 16th career playoff triple-double, third-most all-time behind LeBron James (28) and Magic Johnson (30).
The Nuggets made their statement in the third quarter, breaking out to a 19-point lead with one minute left. But the Heat might consider itself lucky to only be down by 14 at the end of the third quarter.
Nuggets rookie Christian Braun dunked and yelled at the crowd to give Denver its biggest lead of the game. After getting picked on by the Heat and Duncan Robinson in the fourth quarter of Game 2, Braun has 10 points in Game 3 off the bench.
Denver outscored Miami 29-20 in the third quarter, and now it’s time for the fourth quarter – which has given the Nuggets fits against Miami in the first two games.
Denver held only a 5-point lead at halftime, and the two teams bounced back and forth throughout the first two quarters. Murray and Jokić, however, absolutely dominated. Jokić entered halftime just three rebounds shy of his triple-double, and Murray entered the locker room with 20 points.
The Nuggets then quickly pushed that lead to 14 points in the third quarter before opening the fourth quarter on an 11-4 run. Just like that, Denver held a 21-point lead. Though the Heat briefly cut the game to single digits in the final minutes, the Nuggets held on to take the 15-point win.
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