The Miami Heat got punched in the mouth by a desperate team. By the time they picked themselves up off the mat, they were staring at a 20-point halftime deficit. The Denver Nuggets held on for a 120-111 win on Monday night.
After the game, Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra gave a brutally honest four-word answer for why his team lost. He knew the Nuggets were banged up after it was announced starting forward Michael Porter Jr. (back) was done for the year. Denver got the Porter news hours prior to tip-off, plus they came into Miami – the first stop on a four-game road trip – riding a six-game losing streak.
“They just outplayed us,” Spoelstra told reporters. “And I know the things going into this game for them but we had some things going for us, too. Like the road trip didn’t necessarily go how we wanted it to. But they played a really basketball game and we didn’t have enough responses to that, all of us.”
The Heat were coming off an away stretch where they went 2-2. They were playing short-handed, too. Jimmy Butler was ruled out with a tailbone injury. Ditto for Tyler Herro (body soreness) and Markieff Morris (neck). Spoelstra went with an eight-man rotation – P.J. Tucker, Caleb Martin, Bam Adebayo, Kyle Lowry, Duncan Robinson, Gabe Vincent, Max Strus, Dewayne Dedmon – once they got down early versus Denver.
“It’s always tough. I had a bunch of different plans going into this,” Spoelstra said. “All of a sudden you get down 15, 18 points – you know, that will change your plans pretty quickly.”
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Bam Adebayo Talks Slow Starts
Bam Adebayo was a ghost in the first half before erupting for 15 points in the third quarter. He finished with 24 points (11-of-19 from the field) and grabbed 13 rebounds. It was too little too late. The Heat needed his intensity before falling behind by double digits.
“I can’t keep having these slow starts,” Adebayo said. “I gotta come out like that from the jump and then keep it consistent throughout the game.”
Another problem centered on Miami’s lack of communication when they switched to a 2-3 zone defense. Spoelstra admitted their commitment wasn’t where it needed to be on that end of the floor. Adebayo blamed the miscommunications on fatigue.
“Every once in awhile we get caught in a lot of miscommunications throughout the zone,” Adebayo said. “When you don’t communicate you have these lapses where they’re wide open. So I feel like in the zone you have to communicate and in the man we have to guard our yard.”
Nikola Jokic Has Last Laugh
Nikola Jokic was listed questionable coming into this one. Not only did he play, but the reigning NBA MVP nearly had a triple double: 24 points, 15 rebounds, seven assists. He was supposed to be a marked man after he shoved Markieff Morris from behind and injured his neck during the last meeting.
Nope. Nobody got the memo. Jokic had his way with Miami on the court and then partied in South Beach like a rock star. The Serbian center was literally serenaded with MVP chants at a nightclub with his infamous brothers at his side.