The Denver Nuggets are one win away from their first NBA championship in franchise history.
Even with Nikola Jokić fighting foul trouble and an ankle injury, the Nuggets held off a late rally from the Miami Heat for a 108-95 win in Game 4 of the NBA Finals to take a 3-1 series lead. They’ll go for the clinch at home in Game 5 on Monday (8:30 p.m. ET, ABC).
Jokić’s obstacles — he turned his ankle by stepping on Max Strus‘ foot in the first quarter and missed several minutes in the fourth after hitting five fouls — didn’t stop him from turning in the kind of performance that is taken for granted at this point. He posted 23 points, 12 rebounds, four assists, three steals and two blocks, adding to an already convincing case for Finals MVP.
The wild Jokić stat to come out of this game is he became the first player in NBA history to post 250-plus rebounds and 150-plus assists in a single postseason. Keep in mind he’s also averaging 30.1 points per game in these playoffs.
Aaron Gordon was the main beneficiary of playing off Jokić while also looking brilliant himself, leading the Nuggets with 27 points plus six rebounds and six assists. He stepped up with Jokić playing a series-low 37 minutes, and also combined with the big man for maybe the sweetest basket of the game:
The Heat opened the game looking like they had cleaned up much of what went wrong in a runaway Game 3 loss, but the Nuggets took every shot and built up a double-digit lead in the third quarter. Jokić had to briefly leave the game due to that ankle injury at the end of the first quarter, though he didn’t look much worse for wear once he returned.
Miami’s best chance to steal the lead came back when the Nuggets benched Jokić two and a half minutes into the fourth after a questionable Scott Foster foul call gave the two-time MVP his fifth of the night. Denver held a 10-point lead at the time.
The Kaseya Center crowd clearly knew their team had an opportunity and got increasingly loud as the Heat cut the lead down to five. That would be all they got, though, and the Nuggets built their lead back up to nine points by the time Jokić returned after 5:15 on the bench.
The door was firmly closed by that point. The Heat couldn’t pull off the comeback Friday, but they’ll need a full three-game comeback to shock a team that has made a convincing case as the NBA’s best since opening night.
Source: Yahoo Sports