The Denver Nuggets (68-33) are in action tonight at home in Game 5 of the NBA Finals against the Miami Heat (57-47) with the chance to capture the franchise’s first championship since joining the NBA nearly 50 years ago. They hold a 3-1 lead after winning both games on the road last week, and tonight is their chance to clinch victory on their home floor. 

For the Nuggets, despite underwhelming shooting performances from Michael Porter Jr. and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, they’ve gotten everyone else to chip in to carry the load. Aaron Gordon and Bruce Brown had 48 points combined in Game 4 on 19-of-26 shooting and 6-of-9 from 3-point range. Jamal Murray has had 10 or more assists in every game while operating as a true point guard and still scoring effectively. Tonight becomes the game of who will be the next guy to step up for Denver?

For the Heat, they’ve been without Tyler Herro throughout the series, and their main issue has been getting everyone to show up every night. In Game 1, Bam Adebayo scored a ton, but no one could hit any shots to keep the game close. After shooting 8-of-16 from 3-point range in Game 2, Max Strus and Gabe Vincent are 2-of-17 over the last two games. Tonight is their last gasp, but that has been this team’s M.O. all postseason long.

The Essentials

Who: Denver Nuggets (68-33, 43-8 home) @ Miami Heat (57-47, 24-29 away)

When: 6:30 p.m. MST

Where: Ball Arena

How to watch/listen: Denver Stiffs does not condone piracy..unless it’s the romanticized 18th-century type. AltitudeTV where available. ABC. Show up in Denver. 92.5 FM KKSE Altitude Sports Radio

Expected Starting Lineups:

MIA: PG Gabe Vincent, SG Max Strus, SF Jimmy Butler, PF Kevin Love, C Bam Adebayo

DEN: PG Jamal Murray, SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SF Michael Porter Jr., PF Aaron Gordon, C Nikola Jokic

Injuries: Tyler Herro (foot) OUT

Three Things to Watch

Can the Shooters Get Hot?

MPJ and KCP are shooting a combined 7-of-36 from 3-point range in the finals, and two of KCP’s makes came in Game 4. Both are competing hard on the defensive end, but their outside shooting is what really opens up the offense. When they’re hitting shots, Denver becomes nearly unguardable. If they can get one or two of those early looks to fall, Denver could reach a level we haven’t seen from them in a few rounds.

Communication on Defense

As I mentioned before, the Heat’s two big-time shooters in the starting lineup lit the board up early in Game 2, and they’ve struggled the last two games because Denver has done a better job of staying attached on defense. That has to continue tonight. The job isn’t done yet, and, if Denver is flat or slow to switch, these shooters will get hot and flip the game on its head. 

Late-Game Execution

After getting blasted in the fourth quarter of Games 1 & 2, the Nuggets won the fourth quarter by one in Game 3, and they split the quarter in Game 4. Those games, while they weren’t the prettiest wins, Denver won them by 13 or more points in both games. Miami’s “secret weapon” all offseason has been their play in the fourth quarter. If Denver can build a lead and execute in the fourth, they eliminate that edge.