The Miami Heat will be the first to assess their imperfect road to the end of the season. Almost everything is a challenge, including injuries and losses. Even the play-in experience (a come-from-behind win after a loss) seems fake, or at least true, now that they’re facing the Denver Nuggets in the NBA Finals.
In the process, the Heat embraced adversity as part of their identity. Adversity has made them more resilient. Adversity spurred a breakthrough in the postseason. Adversity made them grow as players and helped bring them together as a team. Adversity puts them in contention for the championship.
The team’s All-Star center Bam Adebayo cited the season’s “up and downs, ups and downs” as if they were inseparable qualities, and how nothing can exist without the other elements. he said. Manager Erik Spoelstra sometimes describes his team as ‘nasty’ in the best possible compliment.
“It’s sporting jargon,” Adebayo said at a press conference earlier this week, adding: “Many of you here probably never knew we were in this position.” .
The problem, of course, is that maintaining a stable diet in the face of adversity takes its toll, but nuggets can fill you up. Very talented. It’s that big. It’s very profound. And even the Heat, who have a habit of getting out of dark situations, couldn’t match the Heat, who were on the verge of making their first NBA debut Friday night with the Nuggets’ 108-95 win in Game 4. . title.
The Nuggets are leading the series 3-1 heading into Game 5 in Denver on Monday.
“The game in Denver is going to be a tough one that’s built for the guys in our locker room,” Spoelstra said. ”We’re going to have a very competitive game in a great environment. I got the chance,” he added.
Mr. Spoelstra was particularly upbeat, but that’s nothing new. If you let the heat escape, do so at your own risk.
“Our whole season hasn’t been easy,” said Adebayo. “Looks like we can’t quit.”
They refused to resign after slipping into the playoffs as the No. 8 seed in the East. They also refused to resign after losing two rotation players in Tyler Herro and Victor Oladipo in the first round of the series against the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks. Hero broke his hand and Oladipo tore a tendon in his knee.
Did the Heat want adversity? They went on to take the Bucks out in five games.
Did they want more adversity? They nearly blew a 3-0 series lead over the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals before coming back from rock bottom to win Game 7 — and that was in Boston. NFL Miami Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel then sent a text explaining to Spoelstra that he didn’t need to be reminded and that tough times are opportunities.
“We share very similar ideas about finding strength in adversity,” Spoelstra said.
Now, the Nuggets are facing too much adversity to heat up. Ahead of Game 4, Heat forward Kevin Love conceded that the team has “very little room for error.”
Love’s teammate Duncan Robinson vowed that their “urgency should be and will be at an all-time high.”
In the first quarter of Friday’s game, the Heat set the tone by ditching their zone defense for a man-to-man matchup, disrupting a two-man pick-and-roll game while limiting the Nuggets’ exterior. Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray like to run.
Over time, the Nuggets established themselves. Jokic felt space between the defenders and retreated from 8 meters to sink a 3-point shot. Nuggets forward Aaron Gordon slices to the rim.
Early in the second half, Jokic dribbled straight for Adebayo, bumping once, twice, three times before flipping the ball inside with his left hand. A nifty bounce pass from Gordon to Murray led to a layup that gave them a 10-point lead and a timeout for Spoelstra. Some fans left in Q4.
“There are some fixable things we need to do,” said Jimmy Butler, who led Miami with 25 points. “But it’s not impossible. We have to get out there and do it.”
The Nuggets had a near-usual performance from Jokic, who collected 23 points, 12 rebounds and four assists while dealing with foul trouble. But he had plenty of help from Gordon, who scored 27, and Bruce Brown, who finished with 21 off the bench.
Many of the Heat’s underrepresented players have struggled in the series, and it hurt them again on Friday. Gabe Vincent scored just two goals, while Max Stolth went scoreless. Miami ended up relying on veteran Kyle Lowry, who scored all 13 points in the first half, and Love, who made three 3-point shots.
Afterwards, the Heat seemed to recognize the new reality that almost everyone would leave them out. Spoelstra called it a “story” and said he was confident it would spread over the weekend. Butler said he doesn’t care.
“We are not without giving up,” he said. “From tomorrow we will continue to fight and get better, and heading into Monday we are going to do what we have been trying to do all this time and win. We did this for no reason.”
He added, “We’ve been through some difficult things throughout the year, but now it’s kind of the hardest.”
The challenges ahead of them are great, but not insurmountable. The Cleveland Cavaliers came back from a 3-1 series deficit in the 2016 NBA Finals, shocking the Golden State Warriors, who had set a record 73 wins in the regular season. Still, Cleveland is the only team to bounce back from that deep hole in the finals. Another 35 teams tried and failed.
Spoelstra said he told his players in the locker room after the loss to ‘feel whatever you want to feel’. He didn’t think they were getting much sleep, which was probably a good thing. He wanted them to ponder what had happened to them and then refocus on the most difficult task at hand.
“Our staff love this kind of deal,” Spoelstra said.
Did the Heat want adversity? They still have some for sure.