After losing Sunday night's Game 2 matchup with the Heat, the Nuggets had one word on their minds: discipline.
Denver allowed Miami to shoot 48.7 percent from the field and 48.6 percent from 3-point range in a 111-108 loss, which evened the NBA Finals at one game apiece. From the very start of the contest, the Nuggets seemed to lack focus, an alarming development for a team just three wins away from the first championship in franchise history.
During his postgame media availability, Nuggets coach Michael Malone ripped his team's effort, telling reporters that is "a huge concern of mine."
"This is not the preseason. This is not the regular season. This is the NBA Finals," Malone said. "And that, to me, is really, really perplexing, disappointing. And I asked the team, I asked our players, 'You guys tell me why we lost.' And they knew the answer.
"Miami came in here and outworked us, and it was, by far, our least disciplined game of the 16 or 17 playoff games, whatever it is now. So many breakdowns, and they exploited every one of those breakdowns and scored."
After missing all 10 of his field goal attempts in Game 1, Heat forward Max Strus drilled four 3-pointers in the first quarter of Game 2. He got loose multiple times because Nuggets defenders failed to communicate with each other.
Another Max 3 and 4 points from Gabe have us out to an early 10-2 lead 🔥 pic.twitter.com/ZkxnTIvAfq— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) June 5, 2023
"They just played hard, and like I said, it was more discipline," said Jamal Murray, who finished with 18 points and 10 assists in the loss. "It's defeating when you're giving up mistake after mistake, and it's not them beating you. You're giving them open dunks or giving them open shots.
"That's tough to come back from. We've just got to stay together and look ahead."
Denver's defensive issues continued in the fourth quarter. The Heat outscored the Nuggets 36-25 in the final frame, shooting 11-of-16 (68.8 percent) from the field. That's the third-highest field goal percentage in the fourth quarter of a Finals game in the last 25 years, per ESPN Stats and Info.
That 4th quarter was special.— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) June 5, 2023
🔥 Outscored them 36-25
🔥 11-16 FGM
🔥 9-10 FTM pic.twitter.com/Gq0h5T8fB9
Malone added that Denver gave up several open 3-pointers in Game 1, but Miami players missed those looks. This time around, those shots found the bottom of the net.
"It was definitely a breakdown in communication. It was definitely a breakdown in our game plan," Malone said. "Like I said, we just were not nearly as disciplined as you need to be in the NBA Finals."
Now, the Nuggets will head to South Beach and try to regain home-court advantage. After a disappointing defeat, veteran forward Jeff Green sent a strong message to the rest of the locker room.
"I mean, it's the f—ing Finals, man. Our energy has to be better," Green said. "We can't come out like we did. We have to be better."
(Note: Explicit language in the clip below.)
"It's the f—king Finals, man. Our energy has to be better."— Sporting News NBA (@sn_nba) June 5, 2023
Jeff Green is amazed that effort has become a talking point after Game 2. pic.twitter.com/Xt2nhjEuNr