Dissecting the end of Game 2
Is Miami’s fourth-quarter domination the big story?
BY DAVID THORPE
Heading into the fourth quarter of Game 2 of the NBA Finals, the Nuggets had a game in hand, held an eight-point lead, and looked to be in the driver’s seat.
My questions were simple:
Could the Heat catch up quickly and force Denver to play some stress minutes?
Would Miami’s zone matter in a tight game?
Could the Nuggets tighten up on defense knowing a 2-0 lead would give them an enormous advantage in this series?
Yes, yes, and no.
Here’s the big picture: I thought we’d see in Game 1 what we saw in Game 2. Had the Heat not flown directly to Denver after winning Game 7 in Boston, we might have seen the Heat play with fury the Nuggets could not match. But they touched down at 5 a.m. Mountain Time (or 7 a.m. back in Beantown). I assume they did that to start the “altitude clock,” as some scientists think it takes between two and three days to adjust fully. But it was a Circadian abomination.
They played like they all had a hangover, and Game 1 was hardly competitive. With 8:44 left in the third quarter of Game 1, ESPN’s Gamecast gave the Nuggets a 94-percent chance to win the game, and the Heat’s odds never improved.
When Game 1 was finally over, the Heat rested. As soon as Game 2 began, we saw the Heat squad that everyone but Celtics fans have come to love. That the Nuggets were able to build a 15-point lead after a rough start symbolized Nikola Jokić’s dominance more so than any of the Heat’s struggles.
The Heat just needed the Nuggets to falter a bit and lose focus on more than just occasional possessions. Then, things could change quickly. The Heat are annoyingly relentless, as the Western champs learned in Game 2. Too quickly, I should add.
Here’s what I saw as the fourth quarter unfolded: