Livescore Thursday, April 25
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After the Heat secured a Game 2 victory over the Nuggets on Sunday night, Warriors forward Draymond Green had a conversation with Golden State coach Steve Kerr on “The Draymond Green Show.” Green and Kerr discussed Miami’s decision to start Kevin Love and how it impacted the team’s defensive assignments.

Kerr noted that sliding Love into the power forward slot gave Erik Spoelstra the ability to put Jimmy Butler on Murray and cut down the 26-year-old guard’s scoring opportunities.

“I can see [the Heat] in their coaches meeting saying, ‘Murray’s the head of the snake, not [Nikola] Jokic,'” Kerr said. “If you just look at it, you go, ‘Well, Jokic is the head of the snake.’ When you play a team, you sort of realize, ‘Wait a second, that guy, he’s gonna dominate, no matter what we do. So, this is the head of the snake.’

“And I think they just decided Murray’s the guy we gotta stop.”

While Butler certainly played a role in limiting Murray to 18 points on 15 field goal attempts, it was Miami’s collective effort that prevented a scoring explosion.

MORE: Five reasons why Heat’s Game 2 win could provide formula to win the Finals

The Jimmy Butler-Bam Adebayo defensive duo

If you had to choose a tandem to defend Murray, Butler and Adebayo would be near the top of the list.

Butler has the speed to hang with Murray on the perimeter and the strength to stand firm if Murray wants to be physical near the basket. Even when he wasn’t Murray’s primary defender, Butler was ready to attack as a helper.

Adebayo is capable of protecting the rim and switching on a pick-and-roll. Murray scores on a fadeaway jumper in the clip below, but Adebayo plays exceptional defense, forcing Murray into a low-percentage attempt.

And when Butler or Adebayo didn’t get the job done, the Heat sent Butler and Adebayo to pressure Murray.

Living with Nikola Jokic isolations

As Kerr said, there is no perfect defense to stop Jokic. He had 41 points on 16-of-28 shooting in Game 2, routinely bullying smaller players in the post.

The Heat chose the lesser of two evils. Instead of allowing Jokic to find Murray and other teammates for open shots, they left Jokic’s defender on an island and lived with the results.

Just watch Butler on this third-quarter play. He completely turns his back on a Jokic post-up and sticks to Murray near the Ball Arena logo.

In Game 1, Murray had a usage percentage of 28.8. That figure dropped to 20.8 in Game 2. Jokic, on the other hand, saw his usage percentage jump from 23.4 to an astonishing 42.8.

When Denver is at its best, those numbers are much more balanced.

An emphasis on transition defense

There should be three big words on every Nuggets scouting report: “No fast breaks.”

Denver posted 1.21 points per possession in transition during the regular season, matching Philadelphia for the best mark in the NBA. The Nuggets are scoring at nearly the same rate in the playoffs, and their transition attack fueled a second-quarter run in Game 2.

Murray had 13 points and two assists in that period, largely because his team kept pushing the pace. He either scored or found shooters when the Heat failed to recover.

Outside of that stretch, Miami was able to keep Denver stuck in the mud. The Nuggets’ defense in Game 2 was also far too sloppy, so there weren’t a ton of openings to run off rebounds or turnovers.

A little bit of shooting luck

While the Heat deserve credit for their defensive focus, they did benefit from some surprising misses by Murray and the rest of the Nuggets.

Murray finished with 10 assists in Game 2, but that total could have been higher. Check out this clean look that he created for Aaron Gordon:

And there’s this potential hockey assist that gave Bruce Brown perhaps the most wide open 3-pointer of the playoffs:

Murray made the correct play on a few possessions that just didn’t happen to end with buckets. As the saying goes, it’s a make-or-miss league.



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