MIAMI — The Denver Nuggets are one victory from the franchise’s first NBA championship.
Denver topped the Miami Heat 108-95 Friday in Game 4 of the NBA Finals, taking a 3-1 series lead.
Nuggets star Nikola Jokic continued his MVP-like dominance with 23 points, 12 rebounds, four assists, three steals and three blocks, and Aaron Gordon delivered a playoff-career high 27 points along with six rebounds and six assists.
Game 5 is Monday in Denver (8:30 p.m. ET, ABC), and the Nuggets can close out the series in front of their fans.
Whether it’s that game or another in the series, history is on Denver’s side. A team that takes a 3-1 series lead is 267-13 in the NBA playoffs, and teams are 35-1 in the NBA Finals when up 3-1. The Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016 became the only team to come back from a 3-1 deficit (against Golden State) and win the title.
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It was simply a solid, efficient all-around performance from the Nuggets. It didn’t require a triple-double from Jokic or a 30-point performance from Jamal Murray. Denver’s starters outscored Miami’s starters 83-59, and the Nuggets shot 49.4% from the field and 50% on 3-pointers.
Murray had 15 points and 12 assists (he’s reached at least 10 assists in every game of the Finals), Michael Porter Jr. scored 11 points, and reserve Bruce Brown had 21 points, including 11 in the fourth quarter, as Denver’s overall talent put away Miami.
Gordon scored 16 of his points in the first half, including 15 in the second quarter. It was a return to the Nuggets’ Game 1 plan when they wanted Gordon to take advantage of his size mismatch against the Heat. Gordon’s corner 3 at the end of the third quarter gave Denver an 86-73 lead.
Jokic picked up his fifth personal foul with 9:24 left in the fourth quarter and Denver ahead 86-76. He took a spot on the bench, and even though the Heat were as close as 91-85, when Jokic returned with 4:09 left in the game, the Nuggets were ahead 96-87. They sank the Heat with eight points by Brown and a 3-pointer by Kentavious Caldwell-Pope for a 108-92 lead with 1:11 to play.
Miami shot just 32% from three and received just two points from starting guards Max Strus and Gabe Vincent, who were a combined 1-for-10 from the field and 0-for-7 on 3s. Jimmy Buter led the Heat with 25 points, seven rebounds and seven assists, and Bam Adebayo had 20 points and 11 rebounds.
— Jeff Zillgitt
USA TODAY Sports will bring you the latest news, updates, analysis and more throughout Game 4. Follow along.
The Denver Nuggets won Game 4 of the NBA Finals 108-95 to take a 3-1 series lead.
The Nuggets’ first chance to win their first NBA title will come Monday (June 12). The game is scheduled to begin at 8:30 p.m. ET and will be broadcast on ABC.
The championship series shifts back to Ball Arena in Denver for Game 5, where the Nuggets will look to close out the Heat and win their first NBA title.
History is on the side of the Denver Nuggets. In NBA history, the team that has been up 3-1 in any series has a record of 267-13. The numbers get even slimmer at this stage of the playoffs.
Teams are 35-1 in the NBA Finals when holding a 3-1 advantage. The Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016 became the only team to come back and win an NBA Finals series when down 3-1.
Nuggets star Nikola Jokic finished with 23 points, 12 rebounds, four assists, three steals and three blocks.
Heat star Jimmy Butler finished with a team-high 25 points on 9-for-17 shooting. He added seven assists and seven rebounds.
Aaron Gordon scored 27 points, a playoff career-high, on 11-for-15 shooting. He went 3-for-4 from 3-point range.
Denver’s Christian Braun stole a pass from Miami’s Bam Adebayo with 9:52 remaining in the fourth quarter, but Adebayo didn’t give up on the play. Braun passed to Jamal Murray, who pushed the ball up the court and went for a layup. Adebayo chased down Murray and blocked his shot from behind.
Adebayo has a double-double with 16 points, 10 rebounds, one steal and one block.
Nuggets center Nikola Jokic headed to the bench with 9:24 left in the fourth quarter after picking up his fifth foul in the game.
Jokic was battling for position with Bam Adebayo, causing Adebayo to fall backwards in front of the referees.
Jokic was disgusted by the call, while the call energized Heat fans at Kaseya Arena and sparked a 7-0 run to start the fourth quarter from Miami.
Denver started the first four minutes of the final quarter scoreless.
At the end of a wacky third quarter the Nuggets hold an 86-73 lead.
Denver won the third quarter 31-22 and Aaron Gordon’s 3-pointer in the final seconds boosted him to 25 points on the night.
The closest the Heat got to trimming the deficit was seven points with about 2:42 left.
While play was stopped to level the rim on the Miami Heat basket in the third quarter, a woman near the Heat bench was taken away on a stretcher. The woman, who was shown on TV walking to the stretcher with assistance, covered her face as she was stretchered off the court. The stoppage between checking the rim and attending to the fan lasted about seven minutes.
Nikola Jokic makes history: Posts 500/250/150 in postseason
Jokic is in a club of his own. He’s the first player in NBA history to record 500 points, 250 rebounds and 150 assists in a single postseason.
Jokic is used to making history, not that he cares much about personal accolades. In Wednesday’s Game 3, the two-time MVP became the first player in league history to register a 30-point, 20-rebound triple-double in the NBA Finals.
In Sunday’s Game 2, he became the first center in NBA history to accumulate at least 500 points and 100 assists in a single postseason.
Kyle Lowry alerted the refs the rim might be bent after Bam Adebayo hung on it in a play that was ruled basket interference. Heat players and Nikola Jokic were looking at the rim before Jokic, with a surveyor’s eye, jumped twice in attempts to level it out again. A ladder has been brought out and the game has been paused to ensure the rim is level.
The stoppage, which came with 2:07 left in the third quarter with the Nuggets leading 76-68, lasted about five minutes.
MIAMI — Kevin Love was the Heat’s best player in the third quarter. He drained two 3-pointers, and dove for a loose ball and played with intensity unlike any other Heat player as the Nuggets stretched a double-digit lead.
Love had to take a seat on the bench, and Duncan Robinson, who replaced him, got a steal and layup to bring Miami back within eight with 3:04 left.
This all came after a weird promotional skit at halfcourt, with UFC star Conor McGregor knocking out Heat mascot Burnie. Maybe, it gave Miami a boost.
— Safid Deen
Kevin Love Finals appearances prove vital to Miami Heat
Kevin Love could only smile. Love’s importance to the Heat – coach Erik Spoelstra quickly took the blame for not starting him in Game 1 – became a hot topic and then a matter of evidence through two games of the NBA Finals: the first a Miami loss, the second a Miami victory.
Love – a 15-year veteran playing in his fifth Finals – has become connective tissue for the Heat during their playoff run. And when he’s starting, as he did in Game 2, Miami is more likely to win.
The Heat are 11-4 with Love in the starting lineup and 12-5 in all games he’s played for Miami during the postseason.
“I think just being myself, unapologetically,” Love says as the reason why he’s been able to fit in so well with the Heat. — Safid Deen
Gabe Vincent, Max Strus struggle as Denver extends lead
The Nuggets opened the third quarter by breaking out to a 10-point lead, their largest of the game.
While Jamal Murray has had a quiet night, Nuggets forward Aaron Gordon and Michael Porter Jr. have picked up the slack to help Jokic pace Denver.
The Heat are struggling with foul trouble and picked up its eighth turnover in the game. Gabe Vincent and Max Strus have three fouls each, and combined for just 2 points. They are a combined 0-for-7 combined on threes and 1-for-10 from the field.
Dwyane Wade, Lil Wayne headline stars at Game 4
Celebrities are just like us: They love sports! But unlike a majority of us, the biggest stars in movies, TV and music have the means to cheer on their beloved teams courtside. Game 4 of the NBA Finals was no different.
Star-studded attendees included NBA and WNBA champions Dwyane Wade (former Heat star, too) and two-time WNBA MVP A’ja Wilson, musicians Lil Wayne, Flo Rida, J Balvin, Ozuna and G-Eazy, soccer stars Neymar and Paul Pogba, football stars Odell Beckham Jr. and Justin Fields, actors Chris Tucker and Forest Whitaker, in addition to boxer Conor McGregor.
Has Denver ever won an NBA championship?
The Nuggets are at the door, making their first Finals appearance in franchise history. Injuries slowed the Nuggets for a couple of seasons, but they’ve been headed in this direction since they reached the conference finals and lost to the Lakers in the 2020 Orlando bubble.
Best finish: Lost in the conference finals five times, most recently to the Lakers in 2020. — Jeff Zillgitt
Halftime: Nuggets 55, Heat 51
MIAMI — Forward Aaron Gordon’s offense sparked a 35-30 second quarter for the Nuggets. He scored eight of Denver’s first 10 points in the quarter and had 15 of his 16 points in the second. It was a return to Denver’s Game 1 plan when it wanted Gordon to take advantage of his size mismatch against the Heat.
Nikola Jokic added 16 points (10 in the second quarter), five rebounds and two assists, Michael Porter Jr. had seven points and Jamal Murray had six points and four assists in the first half for Denver.
The Nuggets made seven 3-pointers in the first half — two more than they made in all four quarters of Game 3.
Jimmy Butler led the Heat with 14 points, five assists and three rebounds, and Kyle Lowry and Bam Adebayo contributed 13 and 12 points, respectively. Miami shot 52.6% from the field but just 33.3% on 3s.
“It’s going to come down to our ability to guard the 3-point line,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said before Game 4. “To me, that’s where the series will be won or lost. Can we take away the 3-point shot? The one game that we did not do that, obviously, Game 2, they made 17 threes. That opens up everything else for them.”
— Jeff Zillgitt
Nikola Jokic returns after brief trip to locker room
Jokic returned to the bench from the locker room, where he got his right ankle re-taped after landing awkwardly on Max Strus’ foot while jumping for a rebound.
He was visibly limping and received treatment on the bench, before going back to the locker room following the first quarter. Jokic checked back into the game with 7:50 remaining in the second quarter and assured every one that he is OK after knocking down a 27-foot three to give the Nuggets a 33-30 lead. He has nine points and three rebounds.
End of first quarter: Heat 21, Nuggets 20
Jimmy Butler drained a 3-pointer to give the Heat a one-point lead to close the first quarter. Miami is shooting 50% from the field and Butler has a team-high nine points, but the Heat can take better care of the ball. Miami registered five first-quarter turnovers, more than they committed across the entire Game 3 (four turnovers).
The Nuggets struggled from the field, shooting 31.6%. Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray both scored six points and are both playing through minor injuries – a tweaked ankle for Jokic and floor burn for Murray.
Jokic went back to the locker room after the first quarter but returned to the bench, where he appeared to be receiving further treatment early in the second quarter.
Nikola Jokic limping after tweaking ankle
The Nuggets’ two-time MVP appeared to twist his right ankle after landing on Max Strus’ foot while rebounding his own shot. Jokic limped back up the court afterward and stopped to tighten the laces on his right shoe.
Jamal Murray playing through floor burn on hand
Murray suffered a floor burn on his left hand, his non-shooting hand, while diving for a loose ball in Game 3. He is sporting a black wrap over the burn to start Game 4.
Who sang the NBA Finals Game 4 national anthem?
Miami native Laurana Strachan sang the anthem tonight.
Miami Heat fans fashionably late to Game 4
Heat fans have a reputation of being a late-arriving crowd to games during the regular season, and that habit appears to hold true during the NBA Finals, too. Before Game 4 on Friday night, the Heat’s arena had just as many empty seats waiting to be filled than filled ones roughly 20 minutes before tipoff.
Something to monitor as the Heat could use the boost from their home crowd, down 2-1 in the finals to the Nuggets.
Heat’s Jimmy Butler on Game 4 of NBA Finals: ‘I expect to win’
MIAMI — It might not be an outlandish guarantee by any means. Just some cool, collected confidence from Miami Heat star Jimmy Butler.
“Obviously, I expect to win,” Butler said Thursday before Friday’s Game 4 of the NBA Finals against the Denver Nuggets. “We’re going to come out with a lot more energy and we’re going to get one at home.”
The Heat know what’s at stake. — Safid Deen
NBA Finals starting lineup today
The Heat are sticking with the same lineup as Game 3:
- PG Gabe Vincent
- SG Max Strus
- SF Jimmy Butler
- PF Kevin Love
- C Bam Adebayo
The Nuggets are also keeping the same lineup as Game 3:
- PG Jamal Murray
- SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
- SF Michael Porter Jr.
- PF Aaron Gordon
- C Nikola Jokic
NBA Finals commentators
Mike Breen (play-by-play), Jeff Van Gundy (analyst), Mark Jackson (analyst) and Lisa Salters (sideline reporter) are the commentators for Game 4.
NBA Finals Game 4 referees
Crew chief Scott Foster, referee James Williams, umpire Bill Kennedy and alternate Ben Taylor are the officials for Game 4.
Bruce Brown stats
Bruce Brown is averaging 8.7 points, 4.0 rebounds and 0.7 assists in the 2023 NBA Finals. Over 18 games this postseason, Brown is averaging 11.6 points, 3.9 rebounds and 1.9 assists.
NBA Finals uniform schedule for Heat and Nuggets
Here is which uniform each team will wear for Game 4, via the NBA’s LockerVision:
Chris Tucker called Adam Silver for courtside seats to Game 4
The comedian and actor will be front and center at Game 4 in Miami Friday thanks to the NBA commissioner. Tucker said he went through his rolodex of A-list contacts to secure the coveted courtside tickets at Kaseya Center.
“It is easy. I asked everybody man. I don’t want to name no names, but um, Adam Silver gave me some tickets,” Tucker said during ESPN’s “NBA Countdown” broadcast. “I called everybody for these tickets. I got front row tonight, so I hope (the Heat) win.”
Erik Spoelstra wants tickets to see Lionel Messi… so does everyone else
About two hours before Game 4, an international reporter asked Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, who coached LeBron James, what’s it like having the most well-known player in the world join a team, referencing soccer’s Lionel Messi decision to join MLS’ Inter Miami CF.
“My two sons are just starting to get into soccer … football,” Spoelstra said, a nod to global recognition of the sport. “So, hopefully we can get a ticket and hopefully I can take them to some games.”
Spoelstra needn’t worry. He will not have a problem getting tickets to see Messi and Inter Miami.
What is Tyler Herro’s status: Is he playing in Game 4?
Miami Heat’s Tyler Herro (hand) has been ruled out for Game 4 of the NBA Finals. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra was asked what is preventing Herro from being medically cleared to play after breaking his right hand in April.
“He just started this process while we were in Denver. So it’s one thing to be able to go through all of this. It’s another thing to be cleared to play an NBA Finals game,” Spoelstra said Friday ahead of Game 4. “Taking it one step at a time, and we are all really encouraged by the progress.”
NBA Finals TV schedule 2023
Here is the full schedule:
NBA Finals Game 4 betting odds
Tipico Sportsbook has the spread favoring Denver by 3.5 points over Miami. They have the moneyline for Miami set at +140 and for Denver set at –160. They have the over/under for total points set at 214.5.
NBA Finals Game 4 predictions: Nuggets or Heat?
USA TODAY Sports experts offer their picks for Game 4:
Jeff Zillgitt: Nuggets 107, Heat 100: While Miami will play better in Game 4, Denver is getting closer to the franchise’s first title, sensing the moment and ready to return home for a chance to close out the Finals. Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray once again help the Nuggets get the victory and a 3-1 series lead.
Safid Deen: Heat 113, Nuggets 109: “Playoff Jimmy” Butler makes his mark slowing down Jamal Murray, while the Heat’s role players find their shooting touch to win a close one at home.
How Nuggets rookie Christian Braun helped power NBA Finals Game 3 win
Denver Nuggets rookie reserve Christian Braun had six points through the first two games of the NBA Finals against the Miami Heat. He more than doubled his point production Wednesday.
He had 11 of his 15 points in Game 3 in the second half of Denver’s 109-94 victory, helping push the Nuggets to a 2-1 series lead.
“My job is just to be ready when my name is called,” Braun said. “Playing with Nikola (Jokic), playing with Jamal (Murray), whoever it is, just got to be ready for the ball, and today they found me in some pretty easy spots. … it’s the NBA Finals, so if your name is called, you know you’ve got to be ready.” — Jeff Zillgitt
Happy birthday Udonis Haslem, Nikola Jovic!
Miami Heat teammates Udonis Haslem, the oldest person in the 2023 NBA Finals at age 43, and Nikola Jovic, the youngest person in the NBA Finals at age 20, share the same birthday on Friday, which happens to be the day of Game 4.
“Niko, what’s up, it’s OG. Wanted to wish you a happy 12th birthday… I mean… You are turning 20,” Haslem said in a message to Jovic. “I don’t remember what I was doing at 19 or 20, but I definitely wasn’t making millions of dollars, so congratulations. I definitely wasn’t in the Finals, so congratulations. Enjoy your day my brother.”
Jovic, not to be confused with the Denver Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic, told Haslem: “Happy birthday UD. I know we share the same birthday. It means a lot to me, especially because you are the oldest guy here and I’m the youngest. You are a vet, you helped me a lot this year. I hope we are going to win this (championship).”
Jovic was born on June 9, 2003. Haslem made his NBA debut for the Heat nearly two months later on Aug. 6, 2003.
Nikola Jokic stats
The two-time league MVP is averaging a triple-double this postseason: 30.5 points, 13.4 rebounds and 10.1 assists per game.
Jimmy Butler stats
Through 20 playoff games, Butler is averaging 27.3 points on 47.4% shooting, including 35.7% from 3. He’s also grabbing 6.6 rebounds, dishing out 5.9 assists and snagging 1.8 steals per game.
Over 64 regular-season games, Butler averaged 22.9 points on 53.9% shooting (35% from 3), 5.9 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 1.8 steals per game.
Aaron Gordon stats
In 18 postseason games so far, the 6-foot-8 Nuggets forward is averaging 13 points on 51.1% shooting, 5.9 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game. Gordon averaged 16.3 points, 6.6 rebounds and 3 assists across 68 regular-season games.
Bam Adebayo stats
Over 21 games this postseason, the Heat big man is averaging 17.7 points on 49.7% shooting, 9.7 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game.
In 75 regular-season games this year, the 25-year-old averaged 20.8 points, 9.2 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game.
Jamal Murray stats
Over 18 games this postseason, the Nuggets guard is averaging 27.4 points on 48.4% shooting (39.6% from 3), 5.7 rebounds and 6.8 assists per game. In 65 regular-season games this season, the 26-year-old averaged 20 points on 45.4% shooting (39.8% from 3), 4 rebounds and 6.2 assists per game.
NBA Finals winners
Here are the NBA champions of the last 25 years:
- 2022: Golden State Warriors
- 2021: Milwaukee Bucks
- 2020: Los Angeles Lakers
- 2019: Toronto Raptors
- 2018: Golden State Warriors
- 2017: Golden State Warriors
- 2016: Cleveland Cavaliers
- 2015: Golden State Warriors
- 2014: San Antonio Spurs
- 2013: Miami Heat
- 2012: Miami Heat
- 2011: Dallas Mavericks
- 2010: Los Angeles Lakers
- 2009: Los Angeles Lakers
- 2008: Boston Celtics
- 2007: San Antonio Spurs
- 2006: Miami Heat
- 2005: San Antonio Spurs
- 2004: Detroit Pistons
- 2003: San Antonion Spurs
- 2002: Los Angeles Lakers
- 2001: Los Angeles Lakers
- 2000: Los Angeles Lakers
- 1999: San Antonion Spurs
- 1998: Chicago Bulls