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DENVER — For three quarters, the performance of the much-heralded Miami Heat bench, or, more specifically, its lack of performing, not only belied its stellar play so far in the NBA Playoffs, but was threatening to become a very visible sore spot on the team’s way to digging itself a deep hole to climb out of in the NBA Finals.
But immediately after the end of a virtuoso third-quarter exhibition by the Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic, one of the Heat’s bench mob took control of the start of the fourth quarter, allowing Miami’s stars to follow his lead to bring the team home — and bring it back to Miami as an even championship series.
Duncan Robinson scored all 10 of his points in the first 2:16 of the fourth quarter, sparking the Heat comeback that Butler and Adebayo completed with clutch baskets down the stretch as Miami defeated the Denver Nuggets 111-108 in Game 2 of the NBA Finals inside Ball Arena in Denver. Down by eight to begin the fourth, the Heat shot a blistering 69 percent from the field in the final stanza (11-for-16), but did not sew up the win until Jamal Murray missed a game-tying three-point attempt at the buzzer.
For the seventh time this postseason, the Heat came back from a 10-point deficit to win a game (Denver led by a much as 15 in the second quarter), tied for the most such victories in the playoffs in the past 25 years, and they still faced an 83-75 deficit going into the fourth after Jokic scored 18 of his 41 points in the third in giving the Nuggets their biggest lead of the quarter.
During the fourth quarter, our guys love to compete. They love to put themselves out there in those moments of truth,” Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Fortunately we were able to make a lot of big defensive plays down the stretch, and then we got a lot of contributions, which you’re going to need against a team like this.”
Contributions like those from Robinson and Gabe Vincent, whose three-pointer in the middle of the former’s scoring binge to begin the fourth gave Miami the lead it would not relinquish for the rest of the game at 86-85 with 10:10 remaining. Adebayo set up that Vincent three-pointer, as well as Robinson’s layup on the following possession for a three-point advantage.