The Denver Nuggets are one win away from their first NBA championship in franchise history.
Even with Nikola Jokić struggling with fouls and an ankle injury, the Nuggets held off a late Miami Heat rally for a 108-95 win in Game 4 of the NBA Finals to take a 3-game lead. -1 in the series. They’ll go for the clinch at home in Game 5 on Monday (8:30 p.m. ET, ABC).
Jokić’s hurdles – he twisted his ankle stepping on Max Strus’ foot in the first quarter and missed several minutes in the fourth after committing five fouls – didn’t stop him from delivering the kind of performance that is taken for granted at this stage. . He posted 23 points, 12 rebounds, four assists, three steals and two blocks, adding to an already compelling record for Finals MVP.
Jokić’s wild stat to come out of this game is that he became the first player in NBA history to post 250+ rebounds and 150+ 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 against Jokić while looking brilliant himself, leading the Nuggets with 27 points plus six rebounds and six assists. He stepped up with Jokić playing a 37-minute streak, and also combined with the big man for perhaps the sweetest basket of the game:
The Heat opened the game looking like they had cleaned up much of what was wrong in a searing Game 3 loss, but the Nuggets took every hit and built a double-digit lead in the third quarter. Jokić had to leave the game briefly due to this ankle injury at the end of the first quarter, although he didn’t look much worse after his return.
Miami’s best chance to steal the lead came when the Nuggets benched Jokić two and a half minutes into the fourth after a dubious call from Scott Foster gave the two-time MVP his fifth of the night. Denver then held a 10-point lead.
The Kaseya Center crowd clearly knew their team had an opportunity and grew increasingly vocal as the Heat cut the lead to five. That would be all they would have, however, and the Nuggets rebuilt their lead to nine points as Jokić returned after 5:15 from the bench.
The door was securely closed at that time. The Heat couldn’t make a comeback on Friday, but they’ll need a full three-game comeback to shock a team that’s had a compelling record as the best in the NBA since Opening Night.