Key events

Heat 71-70 Nuggets, end 3rd quarter

So not all long-range 3s are bad ideas. Lowry drains one from 29, and the Heat go back up by 1.

Jokić feeds to Braun, but the Heat defenders converge and give him no room.

How big will that Lowry shot be? Will the Heat gain any confidence from having the lead at this stage? It still feels as though the momentum has shifted Denver’s way. And they might be 12 minutes (plus ads) away from their first NBA championship.

Heat 68-70 Nuggets, 54.1 seconds, 3rd quarter

Philosophical question: Is Duncan Robinson related to Colin Robinson from What We Do in the Shadows? Is the NBA in the Vampire Cinematic Universe?

Anyway, Christian Braun continues his strong supporting role with two free throws to tie it. Then Porter pulls up for three and … he makes it! Nuggets lead for the first time since it was 18-16. (The score. Not the year.)

Adebayo answers with two. He has 20 now.

Heat 64-64 Nuggets, 2:13, 3rd quarter

Another poor shot choice from Miami, with Duncan Robinson flinging one from 28 with the form of a disc golfer.

Jokić finds Caldwell-Pope open for 3. He misses.

Nuggets steal, and Caldwell-Pope races away for a layup. He misses in traffic, but Bruce Brown helpfully tips it back in.

Jokić steals, and Porter snakes his way through a couple of Heat players in transition to tie it.

Stat of the night so far, aside from Denver’s catastrophically lousy 3-point shooting:

Miami plus/minus …

Kevin Love -11

Caleb Martin +20

Heat 62-60 Nuggets, 4:12, 3rd quarter

Early in the game, the Heat were taking good shots but missing. Now they’re taking bad shots. And missing.

But so are the Nuggets. Porter misses an open look from the corner.

Then Jokić tosses the ball the length of the court to Gordon, who catches in traffic and … misses the dunk.

Thanks a lot for taking your improv class tonight, Hunter. Beautiful game you’ve left me. Not.

Heat 60-60 Nuggets, 6:44, 3rd quarter

Jokić hits one of two free throws.

Miami’s Gabe Vincent then makes one of those inexplicable momentum-shifting bad decisions, rushing a shot from 28 feet that hits nothing but backboard.

The Nuggets race back the other way and find Murray in the corner. Will Denver finally gets its second 3-pointer of the game on its 18th attempt?

Yes.

We’re tied.

Heat 60-56 Nuggets, 7:02, 3rd quarter

Here’s another philosophical question …

Let’s say your opponents couldn’t hit water if they fell out of a boat when they’re shooting from outside. Do you just collapse into the middle, where they’re starting to find some success?

Jokić is in particularly fine form in the middle now. His putback gives him 16 points and 13 rebounds.

Heat 58-51 Nuggets, 8:13, 3rd quarter

So here’s a philosophical question …

Let’s say your team has missed 16 of its first 17 3-pointers in a given game. Do you give up on the entire concept of outside shooting? Or do you figure something has to fall eventually?

Is there such a thing as the “law of averages,” as late Spinal Tap drummer Mick Shrimpton said of his chances to survive the rash of deaths striking those who preceded him in the role?

Anyway, Murray makes a nice drive to cut the lead to four.

Then Kevin Love drains a 3 at the other end as if taunting the hosts.

Heat 53-47 Nuggets, 11:13, 2nd quarter

And we’re back with a missed 3 from Miami.

Jokić works inside, draws a late double team and scores. He’s fouled and converts the free throw.

Strus hits a shot at the other end.

Apologies in advance for any third-quarter commentary issues. I just saw several ads for reality shows, and brain no words makes now.

Need better passing, Denver? Peyton Manning is in the building.

Here’s that turnover from Jokić to Butler from a few minutes ago.

Jimmy sticking to his bread & butter with the steal & slam

We’re up 51-42 with 1:21 left in the half. Catch the rest on ABC 📺 pic.twitter.com/ljbgzurFZa

— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) June 13, 2023

Butler struggled with his shot through much of the half and has labored to get to eight points. Adebayo leads the Heat with 18 points and nine rebounds.

Jokić is nearly on pace for a triple-double with nine points, nine rebounds and four assists.

Halftime: Heat 51-44 Nuggets

Strus misses a shot off an inbounds play with the shot clock nearly gone.

Jokić flings it ahead to Caldwell-Pope, whose layup attempt will make every high school and youth coach in the country cringe.

Miami misses, and Porter slams a beauty on a nifty Jokić pass.

Miami misses again, and Jokić lets fly from 67 feet (according to ESPN’s stats page) at the buzzer. He doesn’t miss by much.

Heat 51-42 Nuggets, 1:07, 2nd quarter

Adebayo scores.

Nuggets miss a 3.

Adebayo scores.

That’s a summary of the last 20 seconds and the first half as a whole. Denver is 1 for 14 from behind the arc.

And they’re not any better from the line, where Bruce Brown misses two.

Heat 47-42 Nuggets, 2:13, 2nd quarter

The superstars combine for a basket, with Jokić threading a perfect pass to Butler for a breakaway slam.

Unfortunately for Denver, Butler plays for the Heat. The Nuggets are not taking good care of the ball.

Nor are they hitting 3s. Two bad misses in quick order, but Braun bails them out with a rebound and putback.

Miami misses again, and Jokić sends the ball down to Braun, who drives and draws the foul. The rookie is helping Denver weather a storm here, though he misses the second of his two free throws.

Heat 45-39 Nuggets, 3:38, 2nd quarter

Lowry must be feeling OK, because he returns from the timeout with a tough 3-pointer.

Jokić hits a little hook in the lane. He’s 4 for 4.

A defensive rebound from Jokić puts Denver in business at the other end, and Murray wins a post-up battle.

But back at the other end – it’s Lowry with another 3.

Ouch …

Heat 39-35 Nuggets, 5:37, 2nd quarter

Jokić backs in against Adebayo and bangs his body off Lowry before sinking his close-range shot. Lowry gets up slowly.

The Nuggets then make it a nice run. With the shot clock running down for Miami, Bruce Brown pops the ball free. Jamal Murray corrals the loose ball and flings it ahead to Brown, who’s off to the races for an easy dunk. Timeout Heat.

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I need a translation …

Salute, Sir @duresport!
I’ll be chatting w/ thee since Sir @HunterFelt hath staged a disappearing act for having failed to predict correctly the outcome of Game 4. 😉
The older of Jokers from 🇷🇸had his 23rd GS 🏆 less than two days ago – ’tis time the younger Jester delivered 💍! pic.twitter.com/0Ls9hHcNac

— WolfPrincess (@MontLupus) June 13, 2023

Hunter has also checked in on Twitter. He’s at his last improv class. So when he’s hired at Saturday Night Live, do I need to cover his assignments?

Heat 39-29 Nuggets, 7:17, 2nd quarter

“Here, Christian – you take a shot.”

“No, Nikola, please – you take it.”

The give-and-go between Braun and Jokić advances the ball about one foot, but maybe that gave Jokić a tiny bit more confidence. He hits the shot.

Miami runs a perfect inbounds play, and Duncan Robinson hits only the second 3-pointer for the Heat so far. The Nuggets still have just one.

Another poor possession for the Nuggets, and an Adebayo rebound gives Robinson an easy chance to score inside.

That’s a 10-point lead for the Heat. Timeout.

Heat 32-27 Nuggets, 8:47, 2nd quarter

Denver rookie Christian Braun gets a nice basket inside.

Murray strips the ball from Butler. A foul is called. The replay is shown. No foul was committed. As a youth soccer referee, I hate to call out lackluster officiating, but this is a poor showing thus far from the men in gray and black.

Of course, crowds will boo anything, and they boo a replay of an Aaron Gordon foul that rather clear.

That’s three fouls on Gordon. At last, Jokić returns. Good stat from the ESPN/ABC crew – the Heat outscored Denver by seven in his absence.

Heat 28-23 Nuggets, 10:11, 2nd quarter

Kevin Love, whose wife had a baby over the weekend, comes up with two blocks on one possession to force a shot-clock violation.

The Nuggets’ offense is a trainwreck right now.

Heat 28-22 Nuggets, 10:53, 2nd quarter

Check that – the Butler bucket was on the first play of the second quarter.

The Nuggets are then unable to get the ball across midcourt, and the lacrosse-style scramble for the ball goes to Miami. Butler hits two free throws, the second with a friendly roll, and Miami leads by six.

First-quarter thoughts

Miami’s making better decisions in general. They’ve missed a lot of good looks.

Denver had a rocky start (ouch, sorry for the geographical pun there), then settled down, then came unglued. The ball movement is better than it was in the first few minutes. The shot selection is not.

Jokić hasn’t missed a shot. But he has only taken one. Butler is one for four.

Heat 24-22 Nuggets, end 1st quarter

Jordan swats a shot, and Porter ends up scoring at the other end.

Adebayo battles again and scores. He’s got 14 points and six rebounds.

Porter, who leads the Nuggets with seven points and seven boards, misses at the buzzer.

So if you tuned in for a battle between Jokić and Butler, our apologies. If you wanted to see Adebayo vs. Porter, enjoy.

Heat 22-18 Nuggets, 2:14, 1st quarter

Adebayo works against Green, fakes, gets Green in the air, goes up and hits a jumper as he’s fouled.

Adebayo has 11 points, hitting five of seven shots. Strus is three for four with a three and a free throw, giving him eight points. Jimmy Butler? None.

After the Denver timeout, Adebayo makes it 12 for himself, 22 for the Heat.

Heat 19-18 Nuggets, 2:40, 1st quarter

Adebayo bucket and the foul. He makes the free throw, and the Heat somehow have the lead again.

Heat 16-18 Nuggets, 3:05, 1st quarter

Strus flings the ball high, high in the air, and Adebayo gets up to slam it home.

At the other end, Strus picks up his second foul.

But Strus stays in and beats the defense down the court for a breakaway layup. He might have been fouled, which means we get the excruciating experience of TV commentators critiquing the refs.

The Nuggets respond, and Adabayo answers with a jumper of his own.

Then … uh oh, guess who has two fouls now. It’s Jokić. I don’t like that call.

Heat 8-15 Nuggets, 4:55, 1st quarter

If you “Max Strus ends the drought with an out-of-control drive straight at Jokić,” congratulations. Count it, and he converts the free throw.

Jokić answers with his first shot of the game. It’s a 3. It’s good.

Heat 5-12 Nuggets, 5:57, 1st quarter

During the long timeout, I counted 10 straight missed field goals and two missed free throws by Miami since they led 5-0.

Heat 5-12 Nuggets, 5:57, 1st quarter

Butler’s first free throw goes clank off the back of the rim. The second one rattles out. The Heat are cold.

A screen in his own front court frees Murray to drive the rest of the way down the court for a dunk that’s all too easy.

Another Miami miss, and Porter makes it 10-5.

Another Miami miss, and Porter finds Green cutting to the basket for an emphatic slam.

Heat timeout.

Heat 5-6 Nuggets, 7:14, 1st quarter

Airball, Butler. Airball, Adebayo. But Butler draws a foul, and the Nuggets call timeout.

Bam Adebayo tries a wild pass.
Bam Adebayo tries a wild pass. Photograph: David Zalubowski/AP

Heat 5-6 Nuggets, 7:14, 1st quarter

Caldwell-Pope scores his and his team’s second bucket on an acrobatic jumper from about six feet. The Heat fail to respond, and Gordon gives Denver the lead.

Heat 5-2 Nuggets, 8:45, 1st quarter

Jokić’s first moves on offense aren’t good. He bangs, bangs, bangs, bangs, bangs and loses the ball.

The Nuggets already have four turnovers. As if trying to make up that gap, Adebayo commits the Heat’s first turnover in spectacular fashion, throwing the ball into his own bench, perhaps thinking one of those players was actually on the court.

Caldwell-Pope has the first Denver points.

Heat 5-0 Nuggets, 10:00, 1st quarter

Adebayo announces his presence with authority with a steal and a dunk. Denver goes on to squander the next two possessions as well, and then Strus hits a 3 off an in-bounds play with scant time on the clock.

Tipoff!

Starters

Denver: Porter, Murray, Jokić, Gordon, Caldwell-Pope

Miami: Strus, Vincent, Butler, Adebayo, Love

Kind of a pity TV broadcasters break away for ads instead of showing the player intros.

Let’s just watch the best player intros ever, shall we?

Colorado hipsters Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats step to the tipoff circle for an a capella rendition of the national anthem. I’d prefer The Samples, but that wasn’t bad at all.

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For the record, I’m wearing a T-shirt and cargo shorts.

Jokić should not be confused with Nikola Jović, a reserve power forward for the Heat. Probably not a mistake many people would make. Anyone tuning in from the UK might be interested to know he’s one of three active NBA players born in the UK and the only one born outside London. Maybe Leicester will have an NBA championship to console themselves after Premier League relegation.

The Leicester Riders were BBL runners-up this year after winning the last two championships.

Fairly or unfairly, NBA players are judged by their championships more than their peers in other sports.

Simple math tells us why. In baseball, a starting pitcher only plays once every four or five games, and a batter usually comes up to the plate only four or five times per game. In soccer, there’s one ball for 22 players spread over about 8,500 square feet. Even a football quarterback is powerless to help his defense and is seriously hindered without a solid offensive line.

In the condensed area of a basketball court, one player can change everything, and a championship changes that player’s legacy. The greatest players never to win it all are typically those whose paths were blocked by even greater players. Prime examples: Karl Malone, Patrick Ewing, Charles Barkley and Reggie Miller kept running into Michael Jordan. Barring a Jordan-sized impediment, a player often has to claim a ring to join the pantheon of the greats.

Which is why the person with the most at stake tonight is Denver center Nikola Jokić, the Serbian superstar who won league MVP honors in 2021 and 2022. Hard to believe he was drafted 41st in 2014.

He doesn’t necessarily need a win in this series to be included in the conversation of the best NBA players of the century so far. But a win surely removes any doubt.

All this despite being an unassuming man or, as my Guardian colleague Hunter Felt says, a man with “absolutely no swag.”

Nikola Jokić ponders a postgame question.
Nikola Jokić ponders a postgame question. Photograph: Rhona Wise/EPA

And the plot thickens like the humid Florida air … Tyler Herro has been cleared to play. He, like Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, averaged more than 20 points per game in the regular season.

UPDATE: Coach Spo says Tyler Herro will be available for tonight’s game.

— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) June 12, 2023

It’s a pity that the Writers Guild of America remains out on strike, because the Miami Heat’s compelling story is in desperate need of a Hollywood ending.

After spending the first couple of months of the season struggling to reach the .500 mark, the Heat turned things around by winning four straight on the road in December, including a win in Mexico City credited in part to Jimmy Butler consuming some grasshoppers and tequila. They still barely won the weak Southeast Division and were pushed to the brink of elimination in the play-in tournament.

Since then, they’ve flirted with and made history.

By beating the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks, the Heat became the first team in the short history of the play-in tournament to advance in the playoffs after playing their way in.

By beating the New York Knicks, the Heat became the second No. 8 seed to reach the conference finals.

Against Boston, the Heat nearly became the first team to blow a 3-0 lead in the playoffs, but because playing on the road doesn’t seem to affect this team in the least, they won Game 7 in Boston to reach the NBA Finals.

Tonight, for the third time, they face elimination. They’ll need to reel off three straight against the Denver Nuggets to become the first eighth seed to win it all and add to a dramatic June in Miami, where the NHL’s Panthers are also in the finals as a No. 8 seed (they’re also down 3-1 ahead of tomorrow’s game), and Major League Soccer’s Inter Miami has just signed some guy named Messi.

So if one were to cross the writers’ picket line, Butler would score 40 tonight to lead his team to a 110-107 win, and Tyler Herro would finally return to the lineup in Game 6 to inspire the Heat to take the next two.

(Hold that thought for late news – Herro has been upgraded to questionable for tonight’s game. Maybe someone is writing the script after all.)

Will Tyler Herro be in uniform instead of whatever this is?
Will Tyler Herro be in uniform instead of whatever this is? Photograph: Kyle Terada/USA Today Sports

Beau will be here shortly, in the meantime here’s Aaron Timms on Nikola Jokić’s journey to the top of the game.

Hybridity has always been in Nikola Jokić’s basketball DNA; after all, this is a player who was famously drafted by Denver in the middle of a Taco Bell commercial for the quesadilla-burrito mashup known as a quesarito. The pretty, historic town of Sombor, where Jokić grew up, is tucked into the northwestern pocket of Serbia, flush against the borders with Croatia and Hungary; the Hungarian, Habsburg, Ottoman and Austrian empires have all, at various points over the past half-millennium, laid claim to it. Jokić, perhaps fittingly given his origins, has emerged over this postseason as the NBA’s ultimate border-hopper: a center with the touch of a guard, a prodigious scorer who’s better as a passer, the embodiment of total basketball, infinitely adaptable, positionless but always in position, a crossroads in human form.

As Denver tightened their grip on the finals with a coolly commanding Game 3 win in Miami on Wednesday night, a talent that once threatened to go unrewarded with the hard currency of titles has come thrillingly into mint. Jokić’s numbers – 32 points, 21 rebounds, 10 assists – made him the first player ever to post a 30-20-10 game in the NBA finals. But most impressive was the way in which he accumulated these figures, with a freedom and variety that captured the best of his childhood heroes.

Growing up in Serbia in the early years of this century, Jokić would spend hours on YouTube watching his favorite NBA players. “I watched Magic because of his passing, and Hakeem because of his post moves, and Jordan because he is Jordan,” Jokic wrote in 2016, a year after joining the Denver Nuggets as a second-round draft pick. The two-time MVP is clomping through these finals with the vision and improvisational sizzle of Magic, Hakeem the Dream’s size-defying touch and footwork, and Jordan’s on-court omnipresence and invincibility, his sheer weight of numbers and aura of statistical destiny. A claim for historical greatness is convincingly being assembled.

You can read the full article below:

How to watch the NBA finals

Every game of the NBA finals will air in the US on broadcast TV (ABC), live stream (ESPN3) and on NBA League Pass.

UK viewers can watch on Sky Sports or NBA League Pass. Australian viewers can stream on Kayo Sports via ESPN and additionally through NBA League Pass.

Best-of-seven series. All times US EDT.

Thu 1 Jun Game 1: Nuggets 104, Heat 93

Sun 4 Jun Game 2: Heat 111, Nuggets 108

Wed 7 Jun Game 3: Nuggets 109, Heat 94

Fri 9 Jun Game 4: Nuggets 108, Heat 95

Mon 12 Jun Game 5: Heat at Nuggets, 8.30pm (ABC)

Thu 15 Jun Game 6: Nuggets at Heat, 8.30pm (ABC) *

Sun 18 Jun Game 7: Heat at Nuggets, 8pm (ABC) *

* if necessary




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