Nikola Jokic celebrates his family's victory in Game 4 of the Finals (Photo: from the NBA website)
Denver knows full well that after tonight's win (Friday through Saturday) in Miami, extraordinary things will have to happen to prevent it from winning a historic championship. The 95-108 victory over the Heat set up a 1-3 victory for the Nuggets in the series, and past precedents illustrate how difficult it will be for Miami to come back from that.
36 teams in history led 1–3 in the finals, and 35 of them eventually won the championship. The only one that has managed to turn things around in such a situation is LeBron James and Kyrie Irving's Cleveland against Golden State in 2016.
And while Miami not only looks inferior to Denver in terms of talent and teamwork but also on the verge of breaking mentally, the Nuggets are more confident than ever.
"We're ready to win a championship," declared Jamal Murray, who struggled to reach his numbers when it came to scoring and settled for just 15, but also extorted many compliments for his responsible and impressive game management, which was expressed in 12 assists to 0 turnovers. "We have the tools to do it, it's been in our heads for a long time, so we're just focused on accomplishing this task. You don't have to think too much, just do it."
Murray received exceptional compliments for his performance as a point guard, especially in the final quarter when Nikola Jokic was partly on the bench due to a foul problem. "They sent me double guards every pick and roll, but I didn't fight it, because I know there's a good team around me. A lot of our players can affect the game in all sorts of ways, so I just released the ball to them," Murray explained. "The guys made big plays today. Jeff Green scored a big three, Bruce was big, Aaron Gordon was great. I'm not on a team that requires me to score a lot of points, because there are others who can help."
Aaron Gordon said of Murray that "he played like Point Gad today," and coach Michael Malone had nothing but warm words to say about him. "Jamal always finds a way to influence the game, he always finds a way to get himself into things. He scored a poor 15 points today, but finished with 12 assists without losing a shot. He said to himself, 'They're sending me two players, so I'll just make the right move.' He didn't get bored for a moment making the right decisions. He didn't try to save us and forced himself, but simply read the defense correctly, and distributed the devotion to the right people. He just trusted his teammates, and that's a very significant thing in our corporate culture."
More in Walla!
One win away from a historic championship: Denver improved to 1-3 over Miami
See full article >
It was also the victory for the supporting players, led by Aaron Gordon who finished as the leading scorer with 27 points. "Aaron did everything for us today, and it doesn't surprise me. There were moments in this series when he carried us on our backs offensively, today he just did it for longer periods of time. I'm proud of his contribution today," said Michael Malone.
Prior to coming to Denver, Gordon played in Orlando for five years in which his impressive abilities as an all-round player were less pronounced. For Denver, he fits perfectly, as he showed today. "That's exactly why we brought him. He's a tough player, he's strong, he plays without ego and always lifts all the players on the pitch," Jamal Murray said. "He's been solid all season, he's great in the playoffs and he's helping us achieve our goals."
Gordon explained his good display: "That's how this team is built. We have players who can step up, sometimes it's your night and sometimes it's not. This team knows how to activate the players who are in the zone. Personally, I just wanted to be good for my teammates. I did it for my brothers."
Gordon also gave credit to Nikola Jokic, who pitted him off with some great assists. "The Joker is a great moralist. He has such a high understanding of the game, he sees the moves way ahead of everyone else. He reads the defense before he catches the ball."
Jokic once again makes fun of America's obsession with numbers
The other quiet hero behind the victory was Bruce Brown, who scored 21 points — 11 of them in the final quarter when his threes finally decided the game. Like Gordon, Brown went through several NBA incarnations before finding his ideal slot in Denver.
"Bruce Brown is one of the coolest players in the NBA," The Ringer reporter Kevin O'Connor described him this morning. "He came to the league as a point guard, started shooting in Detroit, then came to Brooklyn and reinvented himself as a small ball center, and now he's doing that hybrid role in Denver. It's tremendous."
"When I saw him take one of his crazy threes, I wanted to kill him," Nikola Jokic said with a smile, "but after he scored, I was happy."
- Denver Nuggets