Initial observations from Game 3 of the 2023 NBA Finals between the Denver Nuggets and Miami Heat at Kaseya Center.
1.Christian Braun? More like Christian LeBraun. Who’s got the mojo to break the Heat’s fourth-quarter magic? A rookie from Kansas, of course. Christian Braun introduced himself to the NBA at large in the Nuggets’ Game 3 victory in the NBA Finals on Wednesday night — and did so with swagger on the game’s biggest stage. The Kansas 3-and-D swingman drained seven of his first eight shots at the Kaseya Center, going right at Miami superstar Jimmy Butler, accounting for 15 points and three boards in his initial 18 minutes. He proved to be that vital, and unexpected, third scoring piece on the road for the Nuggets in support of monster games from Nikola Jokic (32 points, 21 rebounds, 10 assists) and Jamal Murray (34 points, 10 assists). And it was a piece that proved critical, too, as …
2. MPJ vanishing act in Denver came with him to Miami. As the Nuggets worked to extend their lead late in the second quarter, forward Michael Porter Jr. flashed to the left wing and motioned for the ball. Nikola Jokic ignored him. A few possessions later, same situation, only Jamal Murray ignored him this time. Not sure the Nuggets can win an NBA title with MPJ as a passenger, but the kid’s first half looked like he brought that nasty shooting funk with him to South Beach, as the first-rounder missed three of his first four tries from the floor and doinked his only attempt from beyond the arc. His final line: 1 of 7 from the field with two points and seven rebounds in just 21 minutes.
3. Third-quarter the key? Miami’s known for its closing kicks, but when the Nuggets come out of halftime blazing, the opposition’s in deep, deep, trouble. Wednesday night was the fifth time Denver has come out of halftime and outscored an opponent by at least six points during the third stanza. In the previous four occasions, the Nuggets went 4-0 and outscored their foes by an average margin of 15 points. Basically? Take that, Coach Spo.