The Denver Nuggets had to fight all the way to the end and lost Jamal Murray to a sprained ankle but they found a way to continue their win streak. Michael Porter Jr. had a big night scoring which was sorely needed with no other Nugget scoring more than 18 points. Everyone did their part though and that was enough to overcome the Miami Heat. Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler led the charge for Miami who had several opportunities to give up but refused to quit. In the end Denver outlasted the Heat and secured a 103-97 victory.

The Nuggets started the game strong. They opened on a 9-0 run on the back of Aaron Gordon with help from Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. Nikola Jovic had a few buckets for Miami but the Nuggets starters were all scoring save for Nikola Jokic and the lead quickly grew to double digits. Miami meanwhile just couldn’t buy a bucket. They managed just nine points in the first half of the quarter. As it progressed Miami started to find more success on offense but Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and MPJ were giving the Heat all they could handle. The bench checked in and was able to hold the lead as they closed out the first. Murray banked in a three at the buzzer and after one Denver led 36-20.

Miami found some success early in the second quarter, they got out on a 6-2 mini-run thanks to some sloppy Nuggets play and Michael Malone took a timeout to refocus his team. After that Denver was able to stop the bleeding and keep the lead around a dozen but their offense was stagnating. The Heat started chipping away, getting the lead back in single digits after Jaimie Jacquez Jr. hit Adebayo for an alley-oop. Even with Jokic back in the game the Nuggets offense was ice cold. With four minutes left Miami had whittled the lead all the way down to six. Shortly after that it went from bad to worse with Murray landing on Gordon’s foot and turning his ankle. He immediately went back to the locker room. Both teams continued to struggle to string together baskets with the quarter winding down. Then the final minute got bogged down with a bunch of calls from the referees but Denver was able to stay in front and at half they led 56-51.

The second half opened with Murray still in the locker room and Reggie Jackson starting. The Nuggets looked re-energized and pushed the lead back up. Miami responded by getting to the free throw line. After a Terry Rozier three brought the Heat run to 7-0 Malone was taking another timeout. Jokic calmed things down after that but the Nuggets were in a knock down, drag out fight with the Heat trailing by a bucket. MPJ continued to have a good night and led a Nuggets run almost by himself and just like that Denver was back up by double digits. Miami was struggling mightily on offense and couldn’t get consistency out of anyone. They also were sloppy with the ball. They finally found a little success right at the end of the quarter to keep the game from getting completely out of hand but after three quarters Denver led 83-70.

The Nuggets struggled to score to open the final quarter. Their struggles were highlighted by Peyton Watson having a true Shaqtin-a-fool moment when he went for a windmill dunk on a breakaway but lost control midair, tried to adjust and ended up blowing a layup. Gordon picked up the slack though, he started bullying his way into the lane for layups. Miami wasn’t going to go away easy, they responded with a 6-0 run to get within nine. Denver was able to regain control and while they weren’t really growing the lead, Miami was starting to run out of time. They remained resilient and put together another run with the game winding down. They pulled within six with just under two minutes to go. Rozier and Adebayo were leading the charge in what was suddenly a nail biter. The Heat got it down to two but the Nuggets had the ball and just eight seconds to go. Jokic buried a pair of free throws and KCP caused a turnover on the subsequent Miami inbound to ice it. Nuggets escape 103-97.

Best matchup: Michael Porter Jr. vs Jimmy Butler

Feb 29, 2024; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. (1) drives to the basket against Miami Heat forward Duncan Robinson (55) in the first quarter at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Good night for the wings. Porter stepped up huge for Denver, particularly after Jamal went down. He buried three after three and ended up putting up a 30 burger on the Heat. After having a quiet series scoring wise in the Finals its got to feel good for Mike to come out and dominate against this team. Meanwhile Butler had twenty-one points. It certainly wasn’t the most efficient night for Jimmy Buckets as he took seventeen shots but he was one of the guys who just kept coming no matter how many times the Nuggets built a double digit lead.

Going to have to wait and see on Jamal

Murray’s ankle injury did not look great. He rolled it pretty hard and immediately crumpled in pain. He’s as tough as any ball player out there but nasty sprains are not something anyone comes back from easily. Hopefully it isn’t too serious and doesn’t end up costing him weeks instead of days. Some might point to the fact that the Nuggets elected to play Murray on a back to back even though he’s been struggling with injury but there’s really no correlation to the injury he sustained tonight. It was simply an unlucky landing on a teammate’s foot.

All business Nuggets doom the Thing to Bet

We were banking on the Heat being the first to ten points tonight but they did not come out of the gate nearly as strongly as Denver. Kudos to the Nuggets for coming out with energy and fighting through the entire game even though they had the excuse of playing last night available to them. Not too big of udos of course, as their focus and determination ended up keeping the Heat from cashing our bet.