NBA

Heat rally in fourth quarter to even NBA Finals at 1-1

By Sports Desk June 04, 2023

Gabe Vincent scored 23 points and helped spark a fourth-quarter rally that propelled the Miami Heat to a 111-108 win over the Denver Nuggets on Sunday in Game 2 of the NBA Finals, evening the championship series at 1-1.

The Heat overcame an eight-point deficit to start the fourth quarter to snap the Nuggets' seven-game winning streak and send the series to Miami all tied. Game 3 will take place Wednesday.

Denver also was handed its first loss in 10 home games during this postseason despite another big effort from two-time NBA MVP Nikola Jokić, who poured in 41 points on 16-of-28 shooting along with 11 rebounds. 

Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo each contributed 21 points for the Heat, while Duncan Robinson scored all 10 of his points during a pivotal 15-2 run to open the fourth quarter that sent Miami ahead to stay.

Jokic scored the final six points of the third quarter to give the Nuggets an 83-75 lead that turned out to be short-lived. Robinson had the first eight points of Miami's momentum-shifting surge, and Vincent later added a 3-pointer before hitting two free throws that put the Heat up 90-85 with nine minutes remaining.

Miami held a 107-95 advantage after Caleb Martin's 3-pointer with 3:39 left to play, but the Nuggets responded with a late charge to put the outcome back in doubt.

Aaron Gordon and Jamal Murray hit 3-pointers to ignite an 11-2 run Murray capped with another triple that pulled Denver within 109-106 entering the final minute.

After Jokic countered two Butler free throws with a short turnaround jumper with 35.6 seconds left, Butler missed a 3-pointer on the ensuing possession to give the Nuggets a chance to tie.

Murray misfired on a step-back 3-point try with 1.9 seconds left, however, and Martin grabbed the rebound as time expired.

Denver, which led by as many as 15 points in the first half, had been 11-0 this postseason when holding a double-digit lead.

 

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    Star guard Lillard signed for the Bucks on Wednesday in a three-way trade – which also included the Phoenix Suns – that saw Jrue Holiday, Deandre Ayton and Toumani Camara on the move too.

    Lillard leaves Portland after 11 years with the Trail Blazers. He is a seven-time All-Star and enjoyed a career-best season in 2022-23, averaging 32.2 points and 7.3 assists, though he did sit out the final month of the season due to injury.

    Now, the Bucks – the 2021 NBA Champions – will be hoping that Lillard can combine with two-time league MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo to push them towards another title, following a disappointing first-round exit at the hands of the Miami Heat in last season's playoffs.

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    Despite missing the last 10 games of the season, Lillard (1,866) was Portland's highest points scorer last term by over 500, with Anfernee Simons next best for the Trail Blazers with 1,306.

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    "His character, competitiveness, talent and experience complement our group and gives us the best chance to win at the very highest level as we create new memories together," Bucks general manager Jon Horst said of Lillard.

    So, does Lillard have what it takes to make the difference for the Bucks?

    Lillard leaves Portland as a franchise great. He ranks first in team history in points and three-pointers and second in assists. Including the playoffs, he had 17 games with 50+ points for the Blazers. All other players in franchise history have only combined for seven 50-point games. He is a big-game player, and he should help ease the burden on Antetokounmpo.

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    The Portland Trail Blazers have agreed to send their franchise icon to the Milwaukee Bucks in a blockbuster three-team trade that also involves fellow star players Jrue Holiday and Deandre Ayton, ESPN reported Wednesday.

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    The Blazers' season didn't go nearly as well, as they finished 13th in the Western Conference with a 33-49 record. Lillard's displeasure over the team's poor finish, plus its decision to keep its first-round draft picks instead of moving them for a win-now player, prompted him to formally issue a trade request in July.

    Holiday, who earned a second career All-Star nod in 2022-23, could be on the move again soon, as ESPN reports Portland is expected to field trade offers for the 33-year-old point guard after taking Henderson with the No. 3 overall pick in this year's draft.

    The 25-year-old Ayton figures to remain part of the Blazers' long-range plans with three seasons left on a four-year, $133 million extension he signed in 2022. The No. 1 overall pick of the 2018 draft averaged 18 points and 10 rebounds per game last season and has averaged a double-double in each of his five NBA seasons.

    Phoenix gets a ready-made replacement for Ayton in Nurkic in addition to building needed depth to its star-laden core of Kevin Durant, Devin Booker and offseason pickup Bradley Beal.

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    The Bucks won their fifth straight division title last season, yet lost to the Miami Heat in the first round of the playoffs, resulting in the departure of head coach Mike Budenholzer.

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