The Miami Heat were able to steal Game 2 and homecourt advantage in the series from the Denver Nuggets, despite a masterful 41 points on an efficient 16-28 shooting from two-time former MVP, Nikola Jokic.
The prevailing narrative from that epic showdown was that the Heat were able to effectively turn the Joker into a pure scorer, taking away his teammates and, as a result, his ability to manipulate the game as a quarterback in the middle of the offense.
On offense, Miami lucked into some hot shooting from Gabe Vincent, Max Strus, and Duncan Robinson, leading them to victory with the positive turn of their streaky outside shooting.
Both of those points are only half-truths, and, in reality, the Heat were able to take Game 2 with some very replicable models for success. On defense, the major change they made wasn’t involving their coverage on Nikola Jokic, rather, they turned a lot of their defensive attention to his sidekick, Jamal Murray.
In Game 2, Kevin Love was inserted into the starting lineup and matched up with Aaron Gordon, allowing Jimmy Butler to stick his length and defensive gifts on Murray.
Butler was able to smother Murray for the majority of the game, taking away his ability to create good looks for himself off of the bounce.
Here is the full schedule:
By having Butler on Murray full-time, Miami was more prepared for the Nuggets’ two-man game between Murray and Jokic, and could comfortably switch Bam onto the ballhandler and Butler onto the former MVP if needed.
Murray was eventually able to find some space from deep towards the end of the game, but for the majority of the night, Butler had him well-contained, putting the precedence on Jokic to generate offense for Denver as a scorer, rather than a game manager.
On offense, it’s true that the Heat were able to get some significant production from their role players, particularly from beyond the arc, but it wasn’t luck.
|Game 2 Leaders Heat vs Nuggets|
In Game 2, Jimmy Butler was much more aggressive but also patient, especially in the pick-and-roll with Adebayo. Miami identified Denver’s unwillingness to switch the Joker onto Butler, opting instead to stay in a drop, usually with extra help behind Jokic at the rim.
Knowing that, Butler prodded deeper off of screens in Game 2, either drawing multiple defenders on the drive or opening up a roll for Bam and an opportunity for Adebayo to play 3-on-2 after the catch. This action led to a lot of the good looks from deep that Miami was consistently able to generate for their shooters in Game 2.
It will be interesting to see how the Denver Nuggets respond to Head Coach Erik Spoelstra’s chess moves with their backs against the wall.
Game 2 has been a WILD RIDE as Miami begins Q4 on a 25-10 run on ABC! They lead by 8 🍿 pic.twitter.com/VUFA1j5GHF
— NBA (@NBA) June 5, 2023
| Title: The Miami Heat have taken control against the Denver Nuggets with two adjustments
| Author: Andy Quach
| Date: June 7th, 2023
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