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After the Heat’s Game 4 loss to the Nuggets, which put them into a 3-1 hole, Erik Spoelstra told reporters that his message to his players was simple.

“I told the guys, feel whatever you want to feel tonight,” Spoelstra said. “That’s fine. You probably shouldn’t sleep tonight any amount of time. I don’t think anybody will. We have an incredibly competitive group. We’ve done everything the hard way, and that’s the way it’s going to have to be done right now, again.

“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. It’s going to be a gnarly game in Denver.”

While the Heat have never lost confidence throughout their playoff run despite being a consistent underdog, they have encountered a different type of challenge in the NBA Finals.

The numbers show that Miami is facing an uphill climb against Denver as it hits the road for Game 5.

MORE: Nikola Jokic rises from No. 41 to No. 1 in 2014 redraft

Stats to know about Game 5 of NBA Finals

3-1 history in the NBA Finals

Here’s the figure that should have Nuggets fans feeling confident: Teams with a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals hold an all-time record of 35-1 in the championship series.

The 2016 Cavaliers are the only team that has overcome a 3-1 deficit in the Finals. LeBron James led Cleveland to a championship against Stephen Curry and the 73-win Warriors.

The Heat’s 3-point shooting woes

Denver coach Michael Malone was not happy with his team’s defensive effort and discipline in Game 2. Miami shot 48.6 percent from beyond the arc in a 111-108 win, largely because the Nuggets made errors on basic offensive actions.

Their defense has tightened up since that loss, forcing the Heat into tougher looks. In Games 3 and 4, Miami hit just 19 of its 60 3-point attempts (31.6 percent).

“A big message for our guys is we want them to try and beat us with tough [2-pointers] and eliminate the [3-pointers] as much as possible,” Malone said before Game 4.

For the first time in the playoffs, the Heat are losing the 3-point battle. That must change in order for Miami to extend the series.

Round 3PT-3PTA 3PT% Opp. 3PT%
First round 15.4-34.2 45.0 37.0 (Bucks)
Conference Semifinals 11.7-38.2 30.6 29.9 (Knicks)
Conference Finals 12.7-29.3 43.4 30.3 (Celtics)
NBA Finals 12.3-33.5 36.6 37.6 (Nuggets)

Where is ‘Playoff Jimmy’ Butler?

Denver also deserves credit for slowing down Butler. The All-NBA forward was averaging 28.5 points per game on 48.3 percent shooting from the field through the first three rounds of the playoffs. He is down to 21.8 points on 44.6 percent shooting against the Nuggets.

When asked after Game 4 about his efficiency, Butler brushed off the question, saying that it’s “a make-or-miss league.” He stressed the importance of making the right play and finding the Heat’s role players on the perimeter.

“I got too much faith in my guys. Their shots will fall,” Butler said. “They’ve been the reason behind us winning so many games, and I’m not letting that faith in them waver. I won’t do it.”

Butler isn’t wrong. Caleb Martin, Duncan Robinson, Max Strus and Gabe Vincent have all delivered in big moments for Miami. The Heat wouldn’t have advanced to the Finals without them.

Right now, though, they need Butler to be more aggressive and put his imprint on Game 5.

Jamal Murray taking notes from Nikola Jokic

Raise your hand if you picked Murray to be leading both teams in assists during the Finals. Yeah, didn’t think so.

Murray has dropped at least 10 dimes in four straight games, including 12 assists in the Nuggets’ Game 4 win. He is the first player with 10 or more assists in each of his first four Finals games, per ESPN Stats and Info.

He was able to find cutters, kick out to open shooters and execute the pick-and-pop with Jokic to perfection.

“I’m just picking my spots, when to pull up, when to pass, when to drive and try to get in the teeth of the defense. I felt like I impacted the game, and I really didn’t shoot well,” Murray said. “I had a lot of late-shot-clock, four-seconds-left, gotta-get-it-up shots.

“I’m going to live with those if everybody else is hooping. If I’ve got to take those for us to get shots every other time, then cool.”

Murray’s postseason leap is a major reason why the Nuggets’ offense is a riddle that no one has been able to solve.



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