The Columbus Dispatch

Heat won’t be walkover for Nuggets in NBA Finals

- Jeff Zillgitt Columnist USA TODAY

DENVER – The Miami Heat are forged in adversity.

And discipline. And smarts. And hard work. And experience.

There’s no other way a No. 8 seed reaches the NBA Finals.

There’s no other way a No. 8 seed goes on the road against the No. 1 seed and wins an NBA Finals game.

The Heat embarrasse­d the Denver Nuggets in Game 2. It wasn’t the final score, a 111-108 Miami victory Sunday for a 1-1 Finals series.

It was the manner in which the Heat played and the Nuggets didn’t.

You don’t beat the Heat on talent alone, and the Nuggets should know that. This was a classic Heat victory, outworking, outsmartin­g and outplaying the opponent.

“We faced a lot of adversity during the season,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We handled it the right way where you are not making excuses about it, the injuries, the lineup changes. Because of all that adversity and the 57 close games that happened, due to a lot of that, it hardened us. It steeled us and we developed some grit, which is what we all want.”

Spoelstra tires of expounding on Heat culture and resiliency.

But it also doesn’t stop him from appreciati­ng how it helps his team.

“We want to be able to have that privilege of having adversity and being able to overcome it,” Spoelstra said. “You gain strength from that.”

In almost every way – except for Denver having the best all-around player on the court in two-time MVP Nikola Jokic, who had a game-high 41 points − the Heat were the stronger team.

They started the game well, finished strong and in between the Heat absorbed Denver’s scoring bursts and countered with their own while playing outstandin­g defense against one of the NBA’S best offenses.

Denver’s Game 1 victory lulled it into a false sense of control. The Heat believed the law of averages would be in their favor, and they took the same open shots Sunday as they did in Game 1. Unlike the opener, those shots went through the hoop.

It marked the Heat’s seventh victory in this playoffs after trailing by at least 10 points, tying the record for the most double-digit comebacks in a single postseason in the last 25 years.

By this point in the playoffs, given the eighth-seeded Heat beat top-seeded Milwaukee and second-seeded Boston to reach the NBA Finals, they will make an opponent earn a victory. Or the Heat will, without apology, rip away the win and make a team reconsider what’s necessary to win a playoff game.

Follow NBA columnist Jeff Zillgitt on Twitter @Jeffzillgi­tt.

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