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Winderman’s view: Heat cut down to size, with deficit evident in loss to Nuggets

MIAMI – Observations and other notes of interest from Wednesday night’s 109-94 NBA Finals loss to the Denver Nuggets:

– The problem is the same as it seemingly has been during the Bam Adebayo era:

– When it comes to Heat defensive length in the power rotation, it’s Bam or bust.

– And with a high-IQ opponent such as Nikola Jokic, it means getting past Adebayo is a free pass to the rim.

– As it often was Wednesday night.

– Because for all the bulk that Kevin Love adds to the mix, he is ground bound.

– And for all the athleticism Caleb Martin can provide, he is 6-5.

– It was a factor in Game 1.

– It was a factor again in Game 3.

– It’s about more than the rebounding.

– It’s about being able to stand tall beyond Adebayo.

– Thursday night, that was the long and short of it.

– Even as it also was about the rebounding.

– The Heat had their opportunities for points in the paint and continually missed early.

– The Nuggets had their opportunities for points in the paint and capitalized.

– Because basically no one was in their way.

– And it’s not as if the Heat are going to grow before Game 4.

– Yes, the Heat defense can scramble bigger teams.

– As they did in Game 2.

– But it’s a lot to ask in a best-of-seven.

– And it’s a lot to ask series after series after series.

– They conquered the Bucks’ length.

– They overcame the Knicks’ length.

– They actually made the Celtics go small.

– And then they ran into the mountain of a man that is Nikola Jokic.

– The Heat again opened with Love at power forward, as Nuggets coach Michael Malone expected.

– “But let’s be honest, the guy that he replaced could have been the Eastern Conference [Finals] MVP,” Malone said. “So, it’s not like Caleb Martin is not a good player, but I think for them, it was making sure they just had a little bit more size in the game, help with the rebounding.”

– Malone added, “But give K-Love credit, man. That guy is a journeyman. He’s really impacted this team with his professionalism, maturity, and the three-point shooting, the rebounding, the outlet passing, whatever you want to call it.”

– The Heat’s other starters remained Adebayo, Jimmy Butler, Max Strus and Gabe Vincent.

– The Nuggets again opened with Jokic, Aaron Gordon, Michael Porter Jr., Jamal Murray and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.”

– Cody Zeller and Martin entered together as the Heat’s first substitutes.

– Kyle Lowry then followed.

– With Duncan Robinson making it nine deep.

– Spoelstra said that Butler and Adebayo keeping the team’s shooters involved has built confidence in those shooters.

– “It’s way more impactful when it’s coming from your two best players,” Spoelstra said. “Jimmy and Bam both are really unselfish. They both want to play the right way. They want to get guys involved. They understand intellectually how important it is to have everybody as a live weapon.”

– As for those shooters, Spoelstra said, “In terms of the shooting, our guys always have that green light. They have the confidence of everybody. But we’ve also proven that we’re not totally reliant on that because you can’t always control whether you’re making shots or not. You still can compete and find different ways to win a game.”

– With the NBA discussing in the future adding a second coach’s challenge if the first is successful, Spoelstra said pregame, “Yes, I think that would be good. Yeah, I think it would be good. I don’t know what the unintended consequences are, but I always feel like if I burn one whenever, early in a game and you win it, it’s like, ‘Oh, geez, I would like to have another one.’ But then we’re dealing with – if that is the case, then all the players starting the first minute of the game [twirls finger in the air, the replay signal]. I hate that, as well.

– The Nuggets’ Malone went in stressing playing in tighter quarters.

– “They’re doing a really good job of creating separation, and we’re doing a poor job of allowing it,” he said. “So, communicate early, be more physical, take away their airspace, and try to make them play inside the three-point line.”

– Dwyane Wade was among those in attendance, sitting courtside next to Magic Johnson.

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