The Miami Heat continue to defy the odds.
The NBA Finals are tied at one game apiece after the Heat escaped with a 111-108 victory over the Denver Nuggets in Game 2 on Sunday.
Here are five numbers to know from the Nuggets’ first home loss of these playoffs…
189.5 – The Heat scored 36 points on just *19 possessions (189.5 per 100) in the fourth quarter.
It was the most efficient fourth quarter by any team in any game over the last two seasons (2,640 total plays X two teams each). In danger of falling into an 0-2 hole, the Heat trailed by eight with 12 minutes left … and then came their best offensive quarter of the season.
It started with a good defensive possession from the Nuggets. But with five seconds left on the shot clock, Duncan Robinson drained a close-out Jamaal Murray and drained a pull-up 3. Robinson then scored five points as Kyle Lowry bullied Jeff Green under the basket. A free-throw rebound. The Heat scored 17 points in their first six outings. Kyle Lowry fouled him on a long 3 after Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and Bam Adebayo made a three-point play when Michael Porter Jr. came up late with weak-side help.
The Heat played incredibly well, but the Nuggets helped them with defensive mistakes. They went on a run of their own, scoring 15 points over six possessions, but Murray’s last-second shot for a tie missed the mark.
* Official numbers have the Heat tied for fourth with 36 points per 20 possessions (180.0 per 100). That’s because the last half-second (after Caleb Martin recovered Murray’s shot for a tie) counted as one possession.
48.6% – The Heat shot 17-of-35 (48.6%) from 3-point range.
It was the sixth time in these playoffs that the Heat shot 48.5% or better from beyond the playoffs. They did it three times during the regular season.
It was a team effort, with seven of the 10 Heat players who played on Thursday making at least one 3-pointer. Six of those seven had two or more. Max Strus started 0-for-9 from beyond the arc in Game 1 and drained two 3s in the first three minutes of Game 2. (Both came via switch confusion on the Nuggets’ part.)
The Heat continue to lead the playoffs in overall 3-point percentage at 39.2%, up from 34.4% (27th) in the regular season. That’s the most for a team with at least 250 3-point attempts in the playoffs (149 teams total).
36 – The Heat have played 36 zone possessions in the first two games, according to Synergy Tracking.
After zone defense was a big factor in the Eastern Conference finals, it’s fair to wonder if the Heat can use it against the Nuggets, who have a zone-breaking core and ranked second in zone offense during the regular season. But the Heat have used it a decent amount so far in the series.
The Nuggets have been slightly more efficient against the zone (1.08 points per possession) than they have been against half-court man-to-man defense (1.06) this series. But the zone allowed the Heat to protect Robinson defensively and slow things down. Game 2 (86.5 possessions per team) was the Nuggets’ slowest-paced game of the postseason and the second-slowest-paced game of these playoffs overall.
4 – Nikola Jokic had just four assists in Game 2.
It was his lowest total in the playoffs and tied for his third lowest all season (86 total games). Even when Cody Zeller was cooked in the post, the Heat didn’t send much help. So the two-time MVP was a little less than usual.
But that’s not really the story here. Although he doesn’t take a lot of 3s, Jokic is, essentially, the most efficient high-volume scorer in the league. On Sunday, he scored 41 points in 42 minutes, shooting 16-of-28 from the field and 7-of-8 from the line. And while his allowance was low, the Nuggets scored more efficiently in Game 2 (1.24 points per possession) than they did in Game 1 (1.12).
+20 — The Heat’s starting lineup outscored the Nuggets by 20 points in its 21.9 minutes.
Kevin Love has been on the DNP for the last three games, but was thrust back into the starting lineup Sunday, sending Caleb Martin back to the bench. The move worked for the Heat, who got off to a 10-2 start in the first quarter and scored 13 points in the first five possessions of the third quarter. Love shot 2-for-9 but grabbed 10 rebounds (three offensive) and posted a plus-18 in his 22:13.
Martin was dealing with an illness, but stayed on the floor (instead of love) in that ridiculously talented fourth quarter and hit one of the biggest shots of the night. A corner 3 Miami had a 12-point lead with less than four minutes to play.
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John Schuhman is a senior statistical analyst for NBA.com. You can email him here, find his archive here and Follow him on Twitter.
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