DENVER (AP) — Gabe Vincent scored 23 points, Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo each had 21 and the Miami Heat evened up the NBA Finals by overcoming a monster effort from Nikola Jokic to beat the Denver Nuggets 111-108 in Game 2 on Sunday night.
Max Strus scored 14 and Duncan Robinson had 10 for the Heat, who had a big early lead, then got down by as many as 15 before reclaiming the lead in the fourth. Miami outscored Denver 36-25 in the final period, erasing an eight-point deficit going into the final frame.
And even then, they had to dig deep to finish it off.
Jokic scored 41 points and was 16 of 28 from the floor, the last of those shots a 4-footer with 36 seconds left to get the Nuggets within three.
Denver elected not to foul on the ensuing Miami possession. Butler missed a 3, and with a chance to tie, Jamal Murray missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
Murray had 18 points and 10 assists for Denver, while Aaron Gordon had 12 points and Bruce Brown scored 11.
Game 3 is Wednesday in Miami. Denver had been 11-0 with a double-digit lead in the playoffs.
Strus, who was 0 for 10 in Game 1, had four 3-pointers in the first quarter of Game 2. Butler made a jumper with 4:56 left in the opening quarter to put Miami up 21-10, tying the second-biggest lead any opponent had built in Denver so far in these playoffs.
In a flash, it was gone – and then some.
The Nuggets outscored Miami 32-11 over the next 9 minutes, turning the double-digit deficit into a double-digit lead thanks to an absolute 3-point barrage.
In a 70-second span early in the second quarter, Denver got four 3s – more points than Miami got in that entire 9-minute stretch – and they came from four different players: Bruce Brown, then Jeff Green, then Murray, then Gordon.
Boom, boom, boom, and boom. Murray had five straight points to end the flurry, and Denver led 44-32 when it was over. The Heat managed to close the gap to 57-51 by the half, but whatever good feeling Miami had after the opening minutes was long gone.
From there, the fight was on. Miami didn’t let Denver get away – then found a way in the fourth.
Heat: Miami changed its starting lineup, with Kevin Love back in the opening five and Caleb Martin – who missed practice Saturday with an illness – coming off the bench. … The Heat got their 13th win of these playoffs, breaking a tie with the 1999 New York Knicks for the most ever by a No. 8 seed.
Nuggets: Denver hadn’t lost a game since May 7 – four weeks ago. … Nuggets legends Alex English, LaPhonso Ellis (who actually ended his NBA career with Miami) and David Thompson were among those in attendance.
Injured Heat guard Tyler Herro played 2-on-2 on Saturday as he continues his efforts to try to return from a broken hand at some point in these finals — but remained out. Herro got hurt in the first half of Game 1 of Round 1 at Milwaukee. His status for Game 3 is unclear.
Commissioner Adam Silver told NBA TV before the game that negotiations for the next media rights deal are now a priority since the new Collective Bargaining Agreement has been ratified — and how expansion talk will come after that.
Silver said he thinks the media deal negotiations will begin “in earnest probably this next spring.” And after that, plans to add franchises will be the next item on the to-do list.
“We don’t have anything specific in mind right now,” Silver said. “But I think it makes sense over time if you’re a successful organization to continue to grow. There’s no doubt there’s a lot of great cities we’re interested in having in the NBA.”