Nuggets 1 win away from 1st NBA championship after Game 4 win over Heat
Gordon leads Denver with 27 points, Jokic and Canada's Murray post double-doubles
The mission for the Denver Nuggets was clear: Come to Miami, get two wins and head back home with a chance to finally become NBA champions.
It's officially there for the taking.
The 47-year wait for Denver might be over as soon as Monday, with Nikola Jokic and his Nuggets now just one win away from getting the title that he's wanted for so long.
Aaron Gordon scored 27 points, Jokic added 23 and the visiting Nuggets beat the Miami Heat 108-95 on Friday night to take a 3-1 lead in the NBA final.
Bruce Brown scored 21 off the bench for the Nuggets, who won their fifth straight road game to grab complete command.
They'll have three chances to win one game for a title. Two are in Denver and a raucous atmosphere is expected in Monday's Game 5.
Jamal Murray of Kitchener, Ont., had 15 points and 12 assists — his fourth consecutive double-digit assist game — for Denver.
"Today was a team effort." Murray said. "I can't even name one person. Everybody locked in. We've got one more to go."
Jamal Murray (15 PTS, 12 AST) continues shine as a passer as the <a href="https://twitter.com/nuggets?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@nuggets</a> take Game 4!<br><br>He's the 1st player to record 10+ assists in each of his 1st four Finals games 👏<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/NBAFinals?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#NBAFinals</a> presented by <a href="https://twitter.com/YouTubeTV?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@YouTubeTV</a><br>Game 5: Monday, 8:30pm/et on ABC <a href="https://t.co/CvCTq0FzfR">pic.twitter.com/CvCTq0FzfR</a>—@NBA
Jimmy Butler scored 25 points for Miami, which has now fallen into 3-1 holes in each of its last three finals appearances — this one joining 2014 and 2020.
Bam Adebayo had 20 points and 11 rebounds for the Heat, while Kyle Lowry added 13 points.
The Heat walked off the floor in silence, fully aware of how much trouble they're in now.
"Now we're in a must-win situation, every single game — which we're capable of," Butler said. "It's not impossible."
'Our guys are locked in'
The Nuggets were overwhelming favourites to start the series, for obvious reasons. Denver was the Western Conference's No. 1 seed; Miami was the Eastern Conference's No. 8 seed.
The Nuggets had won nine of the last 10 regular-season meetings between the teams, and their run of success over the Heat has continued through four games of the finals.
Denver led by 13 going into the fourth, and Miami came out for the final quarter with appropriate desperation.
The Heat scored the first eight points, Jokic committed his fifth foul and headed to the bench with 9:24 left — and it was down to 86-81 when Butler converted a three-point play with 8:42 remaining.
But the Nuggets — who fell apart in the fourth quarter of Game 2 for their lone loss of the series — didn't fold, even with their two-time MVP still out.
Murray made a three-pointer to stop Miami's 8-0 spurt, and Jeff Green made a huge corner three from near the Heat bench for a 94-85 edge with 6:21 left.
"We have guys that can step up, night in and night out," Gordon said.
Aaron Gordon delivers a HUGE performance in the <a href="https://twitter.com/nuggets?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@nuggets</a> Game 4 win to take a 3-1 lead!<br><br>27 PTS (11-15 FG), 7 REB, 6 AST<br><br>Game 5: Monday, 8:30 PM ET on ABC <a href="https://t.co/m28K3OzbxC">pic.twitter.com/m28K3OzbxC</a>—@NBA
Jokic checked out with Denver up 10. He came back with the Nuggets up nine.
Miami didn't take advantage of that chance, and now finds itself on the wrong end of history.
A team that scrambled just to make the playoffs now needs to pull off the ultimate scramble to win a championship.
"This is what this year's been all about for this group, so definitely not going to hang our heads or quit," Heat guard Duncan Robinson said.
Teams that take a 3-1 lead in the NBA final have won 35 out of 36 previous times.
The Heat will have to buck that trend to keep Denver from winning its title.
"We have an incredibly competitive group," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "We've done everything the hard way and that's the way it's going to have to be done right now — again. And all we're going to focus on is getting this thing back to the 305. Get this thing back to Miami. And things can shift very quickly."
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