The Denver Nuggets have the NBA Finals by the collar, leading 3-1 against the Miami Heat after a 108-95 Game 4 victory. In typical Nuggets fashion, the Western Conference champions kept adding to their milestone collection in these playoffs.
Nikola Jokic (23 points, 12 rebounds, and four assists) became the first player in NBA history with (at least) 500 points, 250 rebounds, and 150 assists in a postseason. Meanwhile, Jamal Murray (15 points and 12 assists) became the first player with at least ten assists in their first four Finals games.
Despite the Nuggets’ one-two punch leading the way after their historic Game 3 performance, the supporting cast had their fingerprints all over this win.
Jokic, though spectacular, spent more time off the court than usual due to an early ankle roll and late foul trouble. The Joker being on the bench meant that Denver downsized from their traditional lineup. On the bright side, his absence during those minutes opened the door for breakthrough performances from Aaron Gordon and Bruce Brown.
Aaron Gordon steps up on offense
Before Game 4, Michael Malone addressed how despite Denver’s spectacular offense this postseason, their defense needed more recognition. If you haven’t noticed yet– look no further than Friday’s game. The first quarter ended with Miami having a narrow 20-21 lead due to the defense both teams played. This lockdown d became a recurring theme throughout the rest of the game.
However, Denver’s defensive ace wore a different hat by putting his offensive prowess on full display. While Jokic and Murray are glitz and glamour, Gordon is grit– having done a lot of the dirty work for the Nuggets. Known for taking the hardest defensive assignments, elevating for rebounds, and his disruptive presence when the opposing team has possession.
On Friday, the two-time Dunk Contest finalist was gnarly and graceful on the offensive end. He moved with fluidity and made the runs to finish smooth layups and powerful dunks. Miami couldn’t find an answer. Gordon led Denver in points with his playoff career-high 27.
In addition, he threaded six assists, connecting with his teammates and further showing his offensive versatility.
“He just played with confidence today,” Murray said about Gordon’s performance. “Making shots, guarding Jimmy [Butler], being on the boards, being the force that he was in Game 1. Tonight was him.”
Bruce Brown continues to blossom
I like to think that the Detroit Pistons and Brooklyn Nets front offices are punching the air and kicking under their desks in frustration. If I’m being honest, I think I’m at least partially right.
These organizations did not know what they had when they waved the white flag on the 26-year-old Brown. After joining Denver this past season, he found comfort and growth as his full potential continuously unfolds. Now here he is, helping Denver towards their first Championship.
Brown scored 21 points off the bench, with 11 coming in the fourth quarter. He opened the floodgates and shut the door on Miami all at once.
“Bruce can hoop,” Murray said. “We got a bunch of guys who can come in and impact the game. You can’t just focus on me or Jok. You gotta go at everybody and tonight was just another example.”
The Nuggets now have the opportunity to win the title at home as the series heads back to Denver for Game 5.