Miami Heat star comes up short in disappointing loss to Nuggets

The Miami Heat had a chance to defeat the Denver Nuggets for the first time in the regular season since 2018, but a disastrous final period revealed some harsh truths.

Mar 13, 2024; Miami, Florida, USA;  Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler (22) looks on after committing a
Mar 13, 2024; Miami, Florida, USA; Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler (22) looks on after committing a / Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports
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The Miami Heat dropped their fourth straight game, falling 100-88 to the Denver Nuggets Wednesday night at the Kaseya Center.

Miami played Denver tight, and with a strong third quarter from Bam Adebayo highlighted by a three-pointer, the Heat found themselves in a close one, trailing 72-71 entering the fourth quarter.

With Nikola Jokic on the bench to start the fourth and Jimmy Butler in, the Heat had a great opportunity to take control of the game. Instead, Denver's role players led the charge and the Nuggets left the Heat in the dust.

The Miami Heat had a chance to defeat the Denver Nuggets for the first time in the regular season since 2018, but a disastrous final period revealed some harsh truths.

Ever since these teams matched up in the 2023 Finals, one constant has been the Heat's offense failing to capitalize on their elite defensive effort against Denver. Like they have in past matchups, the Heat managed to slow down the Nuggets' high-powered offense and Adebayo limited Jokic to just 12 points.

But with two elite shotmakers in Jokic and Jamal Murray to go along with shooters in Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Michael Porter Jr. (who once again burned the Heat with 25 points), there will be times when great defense doesn't matter. Miami has to find ways to string together scoring possessions against elite team such as the Nuggets, and it starts with Jimmy Butler.

When going up against Denver, Butler has his moments when he finds a mismatch, but Denver's size across every position can cause issues.

In this instance, Butler had a chance to take over a game that was in reach. With Butler in the game facing a one-point deficit to start the fourth quarter and Jokic on the bench, the Heat star missed both of his shot attempts and passed out of another under the basket (resulting in a missed Patty Mills attempt from the corner). The Heat were out-scored 13-9 in the non-Jokic minutes -- a killer against the league's most dominant player.

Butler finished with a disappointing 16 points on 5 for 15 shooting.

In an interview on Gilbert Arenas' podcast, "Gil's Arena," former Miami Heat forward Andre Iguodala mentioned that Jimmy Butler has a similar mentality to Kobe Bryant.

"Jimmy will figure out a way for us to win. I've never seen a will like that," Iguodala said. "This dude got a Kobe Bryant will."

On multiple occasions, Butler has shown he can put together legendary performances when the stakes are highest, but Butler has yet to crack the code against Denver. In his last five games against the Nuggets (including the Finals), Butler has only one game in which he shot over 50%.

The path to a championship goes through one or both of the Nuggets and Boston Celtics (who also has length and multiple elite on-ball defenders). Unless they become the best three-point shooting team in the playoffs again, the Heat have to find ways to score at a higher clip, and that starts with their lead man in Butler.

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