The Denver Nuggets suffered an early injury scare in Game 4 of the NBA Finals, with two-time MVP Nikola Jokic turning his ankle in the first quarter against the Miami Heat.
Jokic appeared to twist his ankle on an offensive rebound and while the Nuggets superstar stayed in the game, he didn’t seem to be moving as confidently at times.
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It didn’t seem to matter much though as Denver jumped out to a 18-11 lead on the back of a strong defensive showing early in Saturday’s game as Miami struggled from deep.
The Heat’s 3-point shooting has often been a barometer for their success and early on Miami just couldn’t find its rhythm, going 1-for-7 in the opening 11 minutes.
That was before Kyle Lowry and Jimmy Butler each drained a clutch 3-pointer in the final moments of the quarter to see Miami take a 21-20 lead.
Butler (nine points, two rebounds, two assists) led the Heat in scoring by the quarter while Jokic and Jamal Murray had six points each to help power Denver’s offence.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Bruce Brown, meanwhile, also had a handy 3-pointer each with the former also proving particularly disruptive on defence.
Elsewhere, Michael Porter Jr. continued his offensive struggles after going 0-for-4 from the field in the first quarter and visibly looking down on confidence.
But what would have pleased coach Michael Malone was how Porter Jr. was aggressively attacking the rim and fighting for rebounds, finding other ways to make an impact.
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FULL GAME PREVIEW:
The Denver Nuggets will look to move within one win away from becoming NBA champions as they take on the Miami Heat in Game 4 of the NBA Finals.
The Nuggets lead the series 2-1 and are hoping to secure back-to-back victories over the Heat on their own court at the Kaseya Center.
Although they dropped their first game at home in the series, Denver answered back in emphatic fashion with a crucial win in Game 3 in Miami.
A historic performance from superstar Nikola Jokic, in which he became the first player to notch 30 points, 20 rebounds and 10 assists in the NBA Finals, was pivotal in helping Denver regain home court advantage.
Victory over the Heat in Game 4 would give the Nuggets a chance to close out the series in front of their home fans in the Mile High City.
Although Jokic and Jamal Murray have done much of the heavy lifting for Denver throughout the series, it has been a disappointing return for Michael Porter Jr.
Nuggets coach Michael Malone has come under pressure to drop the struggling star given he has shot a combined 3-for-15 and scored just seven points across Game 2 and Game 3.
However, Malone has no plans on consigning Porter Jr. to the bench any time soon.
“Right now, people want Michael Porter out of the line-up,” Malone said prior to Game 4.
“Michael Porter is not coming out of the line-up, man. Zero discussion about making any changes.”