DENVER — For the Miami Heat, it can’t be one instrument.
If a lone violin plays, it will be drowned out by the more talented orchestra across the way.
With a duet, it might make harmony, but eventually, it’ll drone out.
No, for the Miami Heat, for these Miami Heat, to win, it takes a concert of events. Some built on solid foundations of talent and coaching, others the product of wild swings of variance and simple random outcomes in a sea of probability.
When Erik Spoelstra sets down his baton, and the Heat players rest their instruments, we focus on one piece of the set or another. We shake out chords that were the turning point or one particular player who nailed his solo.
It ignores how much it takes to accomplish something so unlikely. The Heat’s uncanny ability is to force those events to all play in concert, all at once, over and over, no matter what they’re facing.
For the Heat to win Game 2 of the NBA Finals, steal home court from the heavily favored Denver Nuggets and even the series 1-1, the following events all had to come in concert:
- The Nuggets’ worst defensive game of the playoffs, start to finish, caused not just by Miami’s tactical precision and execution but by basic failings in simple coverages over and over.
- The Heat shooting 49% on 3-point shots, including a 1.26 mark overall on jumpshots. (The league median in the playoffs is 1.02.)
- Michael Porter Jr. having his worst playoff game by far on both ends, shooting just 1-of-6 from 3-point range while Jamal Murray, Bruce Brown, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope combined to shoot 5-of-14 from 3-point range.
- A wild fourth quarter comeback spurred by Duncan Robinson not only from the 3-point line but on a driving finish through contact that sparked a flex from Robinson.
- Kevin Love stating in a Final game for the first time since 2018 and the Heat being +18 in his minutes thanks to an 81 defensive rating when Love was on the floor and despite him shooting 2-of-9 from deep.
The result was a symphony. Call it Heat’s Fourth Culture. The Heat successfully split the series 1-1, and are headed back to South Beach for more encores.
The Heat, as their supporters will remind you, were the No. 1 seed in last year’s playoffs. But while everyone tries to ascribe attachment from this season’s team to that team, they are wildly different. Miami won last year with a desperate, clawing, fierce defense. Yet in Game 2, they surrendered a 124 Defensive Rating overall. The Heat offense last season was a mess; sloppy, plodding, and predictable.
This team is on pace for the most games with over 45% 3-point shooting in a playoff run and the most games played by players with at least two 3-point attempts and 45% shooting or better in a playoff run. They are like if the Splash Brothers were cloned into undrafted players reciting the virtues of Heat Culture.
I want to be clear on the delineation here. This is not a fluke. The Heat did not pull a rabbit out of their hat in Game 2. This is who they have been vs. the Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics, and now the Nuggets. (They were not like this vs. the New York Knicks; they were an ugly, defense-oriented team when it was called for vs. an overmatched Knicks team that should not have been in the second round to begin with.)
Will Miami do it again going forward into Games 3 and 4, or in 5 or 6 or 7?
No clue, I couldn’t tell you, because two things are simultaneously true:
- It’s statistically unlikely that this Heat team will keep breaking probability models in half over their knees like Bane with Batman
- We’re in a small enough sample size now that sustainability is irrelevant. They’ve done the hard part; Miami has beaten the probabilities through 3.3 rounds of the playoffs.
Miami doesn’t need these kinds of incredible swings of fortune in every game going forward. They just need one more. They can win one game in Miami behind tough defense and a bad game from the Nuggets, who haven’t been good on the road all season (but is 4-3 in these playoffs on the road).
Maybe Miami gets two more Concert Games. Maybe they get three.
The conversation between now and Wednesday will be pretty obvious. “You can keep doubting that Miami will do this, but they keep doing it.” The next roulette turn has to be red, right? The last three were, after all.
But Miami maximizes every opportunity they’re given, and teams keep giving them opportunities. If Denver tightens up and plays to its potential? This could still be a five-game series with Denver winning if those swings of fortune dry up for the Heat.
Or Miami could once again pick up their instruments and find the universe singing with their song. How do you solve for a team making music out of madness?
Denver opened -1.5 in Game 2, and the line immediately moved to -2.
Miami is 3-1 straight up and 4-0 ATS this postseason as a home dog, 7-3 SU and ATS overall in these playoffs. Denver is 1-1 as a road favorite in the playoffs.
Heat money has come in late in both games, so if you want Denver, you’re better off waiting, and if you want Miami, you will probably get the best price between Monday and Tuesday.
The total opened 214.5 and was bet immediately to 215. Game 2 went over despite an even slower pace in Game 2. These two teams simply cannot stop one another. The under is 6-4 in Heat home games this postseason.
More Notes From Game 2
- Aaron Gordon missed postgame media availability as he “wasn’t feeling well,” according to PR. Gordon tends to take losses very hard, but it should be noted that Caleb Martin was questionable with illness coming into this game and that Robert Williams was vomiting into a trash can backstage in the Heat’s Game 7 vs. Boston.
- Denver routinely miscommunicated and botched simple switch mechanisms on ball in Game 2. There’s no real explanation for it other than mental effort, and they should be sharper in Game 2.
- Jimmy Butler continues to be MIA for MIA, with 21 points on just 7-of-19 shots, but he did finish with nine assists. If the Heat won the series, based on what we know now, Bam Adebayo would be leading for MVP, with Gabe Vincent close behind, but stars typically win these awards.
- The Heat are now 3-1 in games decided by five-points or less in the playoffs.