By Arnie Leshin
The charity stripe was a historically missing piece Thursday night for the visiting Miami Heat, but it mattered little as the 8th-seeded team that rolled into the National Basketball Association finals was no match for the Denver Nuggets.
First the freebies, for Miami it was two of two conversions, that’s was it was, an NBA record for the playoffs. It had only one less field goal, 40-39. then the home side in quest of its first league championship but the final score of 104-94 had the sell-out crowd of 19,258 in Denver thinking it could be a first time to hoist the trophy for the franchise.
It remains a best-of-7 series that was a poor start for the Eastern Conference winners, they fell behind at the outset, trailed 29-20 after one quarter, 59-42 at halftime, and 83-63 after three quarters. Winners of the Western Conference, the largest Nuggets lead was 78-57.
But the shortage of free throws was a mystery in the box score of the traveling Heat, which plays against at Denver Sunday night.
“I guess we just didn’t get some calls,” said Miami head coach Erik Spoelstra, “or maybe it didn’t matter because we just couldn’t keep up with them (the Nuggets). Whatever, we must play better.”
For Denver it was 16-for-20 from the line. It made good on 40-of-79 from the field, scrubbed the board for 45 rebounds, one more than Miami, handed out 29 assists, three more than Miami, and both had five steals, four blocks and four turnovers.
Once again, it was 6-foot-11 All-NBA Jokic leading the way as he had team highs in scoring, 27 points, rebounds, 10, and assists, 12. For the visitors who had to contend with the higher altitude, Bam Adabayo tossed in 26 points, took down 13 boards and dished out five assists.
Each team had five players in double figures. Jamel Murray added 26 points for Denver and took down nine rebounds, Michael Porter, Jr., accounted for 14 points, 10 boards, and 14 assists.