Jokić Go-Ahead Bucket Lifts Nuggets Over Heat

The Denver Nuggets took their talents to South Beach on the second night of a back-to-back and clawed their way to a 103-99 victory on a runner in the lane from center Nikola Jokić with 2.4 seconds to go.

With the score all tied up at 99 and 22.9 seconds remaining, the Nuggets held the ball for what they thought would be the last shot of the game. Point guard Jamal Murray initiated the dribble-drive action then dumped it off to Jokic who made a tough shot against defenders for the go-ahead bucket.

“End of games, we’ve been really good this year, closing out close games and Jamal and Nikola are a big part of what we do.” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “It’s funny. The play before that, Jamal finds Nikola and I’m thinking, ‘Why isn’t he shooting the ball?’ and he gets called for the travel. We go right back to it, Jamal makes a really beautiful pocket pass and Nikola…made a really tough shot.”

On the ensuing possession, the Heat threw the inbounds pass out of bounds, squandering their chance to tie the game and possibly force overtime before Murray sealed the game with a pair of free throws with less than a second to go.

Jokić kept his team in the game early, scoring 14 of his team-high 29 points in the first 24 minutes in a matchup against Heat center Hassan Whiteside. He finished with his fourth triple-double of the season, adding 11 rebounds and 10 assists.

In the second half, the Nuggets looked to finally gain control of the game when they connected on three-straight 3-pointers, including a triple by Trey Lyles with 7:58 remaining that put them 87-81.

But the Heat (19-20), playing in front of its 393rd consecutive sellout crowd at American Airlines Arena, stormed back. They went on a 14-3 run during a key 2:21 stretch in the middle of the third quarter to go up six on a Josh Richardson layup with 5:27 left.

Denver (27-12) tied the game at 95 on a bank shot from Paul Millsap with 2:03 left and took the lead at 97-55 on a tap in from Torrey Craig five seconds later. But the Heat would fight back, knotting the game with 22.9 seconds to go, setting up the game’s final sequence.

Craig recorded his first career double-double with 11 points, including three 3-pointers, and a career-high 16 rebounds. Murray (18), Lyles (15) and Millsap also finished in double-figures in scoring.

“I just like to go for loose balls and rebounds,” Craig said. “If it’s a long rebound or anything on the rim, I try to put myself in the best position to get it. Tonight was just a night where a lot of balls were going my way.”

Denver outrebounded Miami 50-38 despite losing the turnover battle 20-6.

Dion Waiters led the Heat with 15 points followed by Bam Adebayo (13), Kelly Olynyk (13), Justise Winslow (12), Richardson (12) and Whiteside (12).

The Nuggets will host the Los Angeles Clippers Thursday at 7 p.m. MST. That game will be aired live on Altitude and streamed on AltitudeNOW.

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