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NBA Finals: Takeaways from the Denver Nuggets Game 3 win over Miami Heat

The Denver Nuggets retook control of the NBA Finals with a 109-94 Game 3 win over the Miami Heat Wednesday night.

Not only do the Nuggets have a 2-1 series lead after reclaiming home-court advantage. Based on Finals history, Denver may have solidified its chances of winning the franchise’s first NBA championship in history.

When teams have tied the series at 1-1 in the Finals, the Game 3 winner has also secured the series 32 out of 40 times (80%). The Heat will have a chance to reduce the chances of that possibility with Game 4 on Friday (8:30 pm ET, ABC).

Below are five major takeaways from the Nuggets’ Game 3 victory.

Denver Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic dominated while still ensuring team balance

nba finals game 3: nikola jokic, denver nuggets
Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports

Unlike in their Game 2 win, the Heat couldn’t afford for Jokic just to become a scorer. That’s because he still dominated in the post and along the perimeter. That’s because his teammates also helped him.

Jokic collected his 11th post-season triple double in points (32), rebounds 21) and assists (10). He posted the first 30-20-10 line in NBA Finals history considering the league did not count blocks as an official statistic when Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain played. And Jokic also logged his third 30-point and 20-rebound triple double, something Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar accomplished only once.

Meanwhile, the Nuggets featured Jamal Murray (34 points), Christian Braun (15) and Aaron Gordon (11) in double figures. Murray became aggressive and efficient with his 3-point shooting (3-for-6). Braun provided energy, particularly late in the fourth quarter. And Gordon offered his usual hustle plays on the boards (10), with passing (five assists) and with defense (one steal).

No doubt, the Nuggets’ success mostly hinges on Jokic and Murray. Denver seems nearly impossible to beat, though, when the team unleashes its depth.

Related: Denver Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic makes NBA Finals history in Game 3

Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo aren’t receiving enough help

nba finals game 3 takeaways: miami heat's gabe vincent
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Butler brought his usual intensity. Adebayo offered his usual positional versatility. The Heat still need more.

Butler finished with 28 points on 11-for-24 shooting. Adebayo added 22 points while shooting better from the free-throw line (8-for-10) than the field (7-for-21) along with 17 rebounds. As for the rest of the Heat?

Gabe Vincent struggled to hit shots (2-for-10 overall, 1-for-6 from deep). So did Max Strus (1-for-7 overall, 1-for-4 from 3). Though Caleb Martin (10 points) Kyle Lowry (nine) and Duncan Robinson (nine) played decently, most of their production happened in the fourth quarter when the game seemed out of reach.

Overall, Miami shot poorly from the field (34-for-92) and from 3-point range (11-for-35) while doling out only 20 assists. That’s not enough to combat a loaded Nuggets team that rediscovered their offensive groove.

Perhaps this just reveals the Heat have maxed out on their potential. They are an eighth seed after all. Nonetheless, the Heat either need a consistent third scorer or a mix of players that can significantly reduce the burden on Butler and Adebayo.

Related: Max Strus and Duncan Robinson have stayed resilient for the Miami Heat

The Denver Nuggets protected their fourth-quarter lead…kind of

NBA: Finals-Denver Nuggets at Miami Heat
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Denver appeared dominant in Game 1, but coach Michael Malone disliked its sluggish fourth quarter. That approach ultimately caught up to the Nuggets in their Game 2 loss in Miami.

So, with the Nuggets holding an 82-68 lead entering the fourth quarter, Malone pleaded for his players not to fall to complacency.

Denver mostly avoided that trap. After the Nuggets extended their lead to 93-72 with 8:28 left, Miami called timeout and appeared resigned that it couldn’t mount a late-game comeback.

Wrong. Nearly seven minutes later, the Heat cut the Nuggets’ lead within single digits (103-94). By that point, it still seemed unlikely Denver would squander the game. The Heat only had 1:22 left to overcome a nine-point deficit. Miami seemed to concede the outcome by resting Butler during those moments. Nonetheless, expect Malone to harp on those sequences to keep his team on edge for Game 4.

Christian Braun experienced a potential turning point in his rookie season

NBA: Finals-Denver Nuggets at Miami Heat
Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Nuggets selected Braun with the 22nd overall pick last summer because they liked his competitiveness and toughness. Though they remained uncertain about his role, the Nuggets believed he would at least help the team with those two qualities.

In a pivotal game, the Nuggets saw Braun’s potential on full display. Braun attacked the rim with plenty of aggressiveness. He also played a key role in the Nuggets’ fourth-quarter start by scoring six of the team’s first nine points. It’s a stretch to say Braun will have a definitive role moving forward. This is the NBA Finals, after all. Malone will likely feel comfortable throwing him into the lineup, however, to eat minutes and provide a few energy plays.

The Miami Heat’s lack of size continues to be an issue

NBA: Finals-Denver Nuggets at Miami Heat
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Miami won’t back down in Game 4. Since when have the Heat ever given up? Nonetheless, Miami’s has continued to struggle with its size disadvantage against Denver.

Not only has that enabled Jokic and Gordon to flourish inside. The Nuggets overwhelmingly beat the Heat on the glass (58-33). Miami addressed that issue in Game 2 partly by starting Kevin Love and disrupting the Nuggets’ overall team balance. Though Love has helped as a willing defender and strong floor spacer, Adebayo still needs more interior help. Outside of suddenly playing 42-year-old Udonis Haslem, however, the Heat really don’t have any other options.

Mark Medina is an NBA Insider for Sportsnaut. Follow him on Twitter and on Instagram.

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