The fourth game of the NBA finals, in which the Denver Nuggets relied on a sensational performance by Aaron Gordon to defeat Miami Heat (108-95) and take off in a playoff (3-1) that is getting closer to giving the Western franchise the first title in its history, was saved for the end the little emotion that brought in the hat.
It happened within three minutes of starting the final quarter. Nikola The infallible Jokic made two mistakes in a row! on two consecutive plays, which earned him his fourth and fifth fouls, one of them offensive. So his coach, Michael Malone, had no choice but to send him to the bench.
Then, the local public of the Kaseya Center abandoned its white lethargy and for a moment believed in the miracles and in the two fames won by their team during an atypical season: that they belong to a resistant species that grows in the last quarter and that, like long-distance boxers, know how to get up from the canvas after receiving a good rain of blows. The nerves momentarily put on the uniform of the visiting team, but everything remained in a mirage. And in Miami, a city that this Friday had no more news, between the imputation of Donald Trump and the signing of Messi by the local football team, it was again proven that miracles do not exist.
The Heat were not able to catch in those minutes the train of the elimination, an express that passed before their eyes like an exhalation, and the five minutes that Jokic was absent served two things: briefly imagine what his team and this sport would be like without his strange talent and demonstrate how little the Nuggets lack, who didn't exactly have their most inspired night, to win in this final.
Shortly after the return to the parquet of the Serbian center, a triple from Denver sounded like a shot for the stampede of Miami fans heading to the parking lot. For the first time in the night, the cries of "Let's go Nuggets!" managed to cover, without blushing those who uttered them, those of "Let's go Heat!".
Until then, the story of the match was one of two teams trying to find each other.
For the Nuggets, who only have to win one more of the next three games, two of them at home, to take a title they deserve, it was enough for their star not to lose concentration at all. It helped his own, in the absence of Jamal Murray, partner of amazing statistics, the step forward of Gordon. He scored 27 points (15 of which came in a spectacular second quarter), compared to Jokic's 23. In the post-match press conference, the star defined Gordon as a "player who knows how to sacrifice." "He just won the game for us," Jokic said. Malone also credited him. "I couldn't be prouder of his impact tonight," he said.
And the Heat? It was the first time since the postseason started that they came to their court below in the tie (2-1). "Tomorrow we will go out with much more energy, we will compete at a high level and we will win at home," he had promised on Wednesday in a meeting with the press his star Jimmy Butler with one of his characteristic messages, a mixture of firm self-confidence and motivational talk for his teammates.
He scored 25 points, but it did not help much: the fuses of the team never stopped flashing, even if they offered the occasional spark. For example, in the first quarter, when a rush at the end served to end it with an advantage of one (22-21). Or in the second, to do so losing only four (51-55).
In the third, the Nuggets' dominance became law. It was also the fourth of the night's surreal episode. Sam Adebayo, who with 15 points and 12 assists was again the best of his team, received a pass in the paint, where he confused the idea of making a mate with holding on to the hoop as if it were a handle in the middle of a hurricane. Not only did he not score; he was fouled and had to stop the game for five minutes to balance the basket, since Jokic was not able to counterbalance it by hanging twice on the other side. When the technicians achieved it professionally, a stretcher entered the other corner of the court to take a spectator to the infirmary.
The next round of the fight is at Denver's Bell Arena next Monday. If the Nuggets win at home, the matter will be settled. If the game is won by the Heat, both will meet again next Thursday in Miami. If a seventh game is needed, the teams will head west again.
Teams that came this far with a Nuggets-like lead ended up winning the series 97.2% of the time (35-1). As is well known, statistics, a serious matter in the NBA, are like Oscar Wilde's quotes; You can always count on them to prove one thing and the opposite. So the Heat only have the consolation of looking at the Cleveland Cavaliers' comeback against the Golden State Warriors in 2016. They were losing 3-1 and ended up putting on the ring.
You can follow EL PAÍS Deportes on Facebook and Twitter, or sign up here to receive our weekly newsletter.