The Heat have been one of the best underdog stories in NBA history but the Nuggets may be their toughest test. Here’s what they have to do to steal Game 2.
The Miami Heat have one of if not the greatest underdog playoff run in the history of the NBA. They are the first team ever, in a full 82-game season, to make the finals as the No. 8 seed and the first to make the NBA Finals as a play-in team.
They have a huge task in front of them because they have to play their toughest opponent yet in Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets. Jokic has been the best player in these playoffs and the Nuggets have been the best team in these playoffs.
The Nuggets have one of the biggest home-court advantages because they play in the Mile High City. The thin air in Denver affects the road team as the opposing players are not used to playing in the altitude. As a result, the Nuggets had a 34-7 home record this season and a perfect 9-0 at home this postseason.
The Heat have to steal a game on the road to win this series and they have some things they can fix from their Game 1 loss to help their chances.
How the Heat can steal Game 2: 3. Attack the paint
If you look at Denver’s last two series, and especially in the Lakers series, the one area Denver struggled in the most was paint defense. As good as Nikola Jokic is on offense, he does struggle with being an interior defensive force.
This is exactly why the Heat should keep attacking the paint because the Nuggets don’t have a rim protector. Jimmy Butler should be able to get any shot he wants within 10 feet of the rim. He did against the Bucks and Celtics who have great rim protectors but he was a no-show in Game 1.
Also, a big part of the Nuggets’ defensive game plan was to let Bam Adebayo take his shots and he went 13-of-25. If Bam is going to be as wide open as he was in the paint as he was in Game 1, he’s going to have to keep attacking the rim to see if he could get someone in foul trouble.
One other factor that indicated the Heat did not attack the rim as much as they should have in Game 1 was that they took an all-time playoff history low, two free throws. The Heat have been averaging 20 free throw attempts per game and Jimmy Butler averages nine attempts per game. The lack of free throw attempts shows that the Heat and Jimmy Butler were not aggressive enough in attacking the rim.