Denver Nuggets knocked on Wednesday at the gates of heaven of their first NBA title with a home victory, the second of the series, against Miami Heat and thanks to the phenomenal performance of their two stars, Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray, who achieved historical records of points, rebounds and assists. The score, which ended 109-94 and left the tie count at 2-1, did not tell the whole story of a game split in half. In the first, equality was constant and sticky. In the second, the dream of the Heat to get the playoffs on track against their own was gradually getting out of hand.
The thing seemed doomed when there were three minutes left in the game and the flocks of Miami fans dressed in white, who welcomed at home, and after two games in Denver, their first final in nine years, began to leave the Kaseya Center stadium en masse. No one likes to wallow in disappointment, but traffic is an issue that should not be taken lightly on a game day in a large American city.
They carried the frustration marked on their faces with the two most heard words of the night by the stadium PA system: Nikola Jokic, the main source of their misfortunes. The Serbian star of the Nuggets, in addition to a great game, made history, becoming the first player to score 30 points, capture 20 rebounds and give 10 assists in a final. He did not stop there: he ended up scoring 32 points and grabbed 21 rebounds.
Paradoxically, it was in the three minutes of the rout when Miami seemed to be reborn from its ashes. It got to nine points. But, alas, the miracle remained in the waiting room and the coach of the Heat, Erik Spoelstra, and the fans, only had one consolation: to take out with twenty seconds left of the final a modest local myth, Udonis Haslem. He retires at the end of the season, after two decades of faithful service, at least he could get a standing ovation.
The script of the night changed at the height of the beginning of the third quarter, when the Denver team, after two laborious quarters, took off with a double-digit lead that never went away. The difference climbed to 21 points two and a half minutes into the fourth quarter. Spoelstra then called a timeout. The music went up, an accelerated version of Mami what the black man wants, but the audience, which had started strongly, was already lost, like his team.
Before it was the turn of the consolation awards, the game had begun with a Heat who came out eager to prove in a hurry that they were capable of achieving what ventured their victory against the odds in Denver, last Sunday. We had to seize the moment: it was the first time in the postseason that the Heat did not face their third game with a 2-0. It was also the first in which they had lost at home, after nine games without doing so. The initial boot worked for them for about eight minutes. By then, Jokic, with that style of his half European and half infallible effortlessly was already advancing like a general confident by enemy positions. The home team's rush and nerves translated into one missed opportunity to gain a foothold after another.
The first quarter ended with double equality: in the score between the two teams and in the points scored, 10, by the stars of both franchises: Jimmy Butler (who finished with 28 points, by the 22 of Sam Adebayo) and Jokic. In the ranks of the Nuggets, Jamal Murray, who signed another great game, was the top scorer, with 34 points.
The next match is on Friday, again in Miami, where the dream of winning the fourth championship in its history (after those of 2006, 2012 and 2013) is still alive among its fans, still without believing it much. "It's pretty much that we've come this far." , said Big Dan Vainberg, shortly before Wednesday's game and at the end of a season in which almost no one gave a damn for them.
The statistics still do not give it: there is no team on the shelves that finished eighth seed in the Eastern Conference that has been taken to the end in a ring. This year, the Heat qualified by the hair in the playoff to life or death of the play-in, but then contradicted those who underestimated them taking ahead, against all odds and in that order, the Milwaukee Bucks, the New York Knicks and the Boston Celtics, who stayed at the gates last season and were the favorites for glory from this half of the country.
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