Erik Spoelstra laments Heat's lack of fight in Game 3 loss: 'They pummelled us in the paint'

Erik Spoelstra laments Heat's lack of fight in Game 3 loss: 'They pummelled us in the paint'

The Miami Heat were dismantled by the Denver Nuggets 109-94 in Game 3 of the NBA Finals. The Nuggets have taken back their home-court advantage and now lead the series 2-1.

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra was in awe of the Nuggets’ big two of Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray.

The two stars became the first teammates to record triple-doubles in the same Finals game, while also becoming the only teammates to record 30-point triple-doubles in ANY game in NBA history.

“It’s a great duo. Their games really complement each other … certainly at the beginning of that game that set the tone, but we lost a lot of physical, 50/50 or ball in the air, ball on the floor battles throughout the course of the game and at key moments,” Spoelstra lamented.

“You have to expect there to be elite talent in the Finals, both those guys are elite-level talent. At our best version, we find ways to overcome that and make it tough on them.” Spoelstra added. 

MORE: NBA world reacts to Nikola Jokic’s historic performance in Game 3

Rather than pointing to the out-of-this-world play of Jokic and Murray, Spoelstra highlighted the Nuggets’ dominance inside and on the boards.

“They just pummelled us in the paint … They had, whatever, 60 in the paint?! They probably shot over 65 percent at the rim.”

The Nuggets outscored the Heat 60-34 in points in the paint. That discrepancy at the rim coupled with the huge 58-33 rebound differential played a key role in the loss for Miami.

Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo were best for the Heat. Butler posted a team-high 28 points, while Adebayo was impactful with a 22-point, 17-rebound double-double.

Despite his strong showing, Butler echoed the words of his head coach. 

“We didn’t play our best tonight. I just feel like we got to come out with more energy and effort,” Butler said.

“That’s correctable. That’s on us as a group no Xs and Os can fix that … come out, dive on the floor, get loose balls, get offensive rebounds, and maybe, just maybe, it would have been a different game.”

MORE: Game 3 Player Grades – Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray shine in South Beach

The usual standout Heat role players were absent from the Game 3 action. After combining for 37 points in Miami’s 111-108 Game 2 win, both Gabe Vincent and Max Strus were smothered by the Nuggets’ defense and were held to just a combined 10 points on 3-of-17 from the field.

On his team’s scoring troubles Spoelstra added;

“Offensively; definitely there were some times where we got flattened out and they jammed us up in possessions, got us late into possessions and sometimes we were forced with those plays and that can have a different flow and feel to it than if it’s in our typical rhythm.” 

The Nuggets will look to take the momentum from this victory into the next game, with Game 4 in Miami set for Friday, June 9, with tip-off at 8:30 p.m. ET.