MIAMI—Those open looks Miami kept knocking down three nights earlier in Denver just wouldn’t go down back home.
Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo were a combined 10 of 30 in the paint, and too many other shooters were cold in a 109-94 loss Wednesday night that gave the Nuggets a 2-1 lead in the National Basketball Association (NBA) Finals.
“I just missed some that I normally make,” said Butler, who finished with 28 points on 11-of-24 shooting. “Along with Bam, too, but we’re gonna continually take those, getting two feet in the paint. If you can get a shot up, get it up, and if you can’t, get it out to your shooters. I think we did a good job with that. Maybe we do have to do a better job, but those are the same shots that we’re gonna get next game, and we’re expected to take and make those.”
After knocking down 17 3-pointers in Game 2, Miami made 11 of 34 shots from deep in Game 3. Duncan Robinson had three. Caleb Martin added a pair of back-to-back 3-pointers in the second quarter.
Despite getting the looks inside that they wanted, the Heat simply did not knock them down, resulting in a loss in which their fans, once roaring as loud as they could as they swirled white flags above their heads, were finding the exits before the final minutes.
Gabe Vincent shot 2 for 10 and Max Strus was 1 for 7, the starting guards combining to miss eight of their 10 attempts behind the arc.
Butler couldn’t seem to find the words to describe what went wrong, or why it was such a far cry from their success in a tough road environment a few nights earlier.
“I don’t know. It just can’t happen,” Butler said. “It won’t happen again, and it starts with myself. I’ve got to lock in on the defensive end … I think if I start playing and doing that, then everybody else has to follow suit.”
Miami made just 9 of 26 first-half attempts in the paint and finished the game shooting 37% from the field, compared to Denver’s 51.2.
“I thought offensively we actually did get a lot of opportunities in the paint,” said Miami coach Erik Spoelstra. “Yes, you have to credit their size and everything like that, but we’ve proven that we can finish in the paint when we’re at our best.”
Adebayo finished with 22 points and 17 rebounds but shot just 7 of 21 from the field.
The Nuggets pulled away in the third quarter — leading by as many as 19 — by accomplishing what the Heat couldn’t: They had 60 points in the paint to Miami’s 34. Denver only took 18 3-point attempts after taking 28 in Game 2 and 27 in Game 1.
“They pummeled us in the paint,” Spoelstra said. “They didn’t really have to shoot 3s. … There wasn’t a need to space the floor. We didn’t offer much resistance.”
The Heat pulled within nine with 1:22 left thanks to a 3-pointer by Robinson but missed all of their shot attempts the rest of the way.
“Good win for us,” Denver coach Michael Malone said, “but we did not come down here to get one win.”
Image credits: AP