Two nights after Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray put on historic performances, neither player was the key cog for the Denver Nuggets in Game 4 of the NBA Finals.
Aaron Gordon stepped up with the top playoff effort of his nine-year career as he recorded 27 points, seven rebounds and six assists to help the Nuggets move within one victory of their first title with a 108-95 victory over the host Miami Heat on Friday night.
Jokic and Murray were the first teammates in NBA history to have 30-point triple-doubles in Denver's Game 3 victory. However, neither star was as important in Game 4 as Gordon, who stepped up with 11-of-15 shooting -- including 3-of-4 success from 3-point range -- as the Nuggets took a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.
"I mean, that's just how this team is built," Gordon said of taking the starring role. "We have guys that can step up night in and night out. Sometimes it's not going to be your night, and sometimes it is going to be your night. This team does a good job finding people who are in a rhythm."
Nuggets coach Michael Malone gushed about Gordon's effort.
"Aaron Gordon was huge all night long," Malone said. "He brought his hard hat tonight and was just a warrior on both ends."
Jokic tweaked his right ankle in the opening quarter but still recorded 23 points and 12 rebounds. Denver reserve Bruce Brown scored 11 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter.
Murray registered 15 points and 12 assists without a single turnover. He had no problem being more of a complementary player.
"We got a bunch of guys who can come in the game and impact it," Murray said. "You can't just focus on me or Jok. You have to guard everybody, and tonight was another example."
Jimmy Butler had 25 points, seven rebounds and seven assists, and Bam Adebayo amassed 20 points and 11 rebounds for the Heat. Kyle Lowry scored 13 points while Kevin Love and Duncan Robinson added 12 apiece for Miami.
Denver can win the title at home in Game 5 on Monday.
The Heat are still holding out hope that they can become the second team to recover from a 3-1 deficit in the NBA Finals. The Cleveland Cavaliers rallied to beat the Golden Warriors in the 2016 Finals.
"It's the same thing that it's always been -- it's a game at a time," Butler said. "Now we're in a must-win situation every game, which we're capable of. We've got to correct some things, but it's not impossible. We got three to get."
Miami trailed 97-89 after Robinson drove for a basket with 2:57 left before the Nuggets put the game away with an 11-2 dash.
Brown converted a three-point play to give the Nuggets an 11-point lead with 2:36 left. Adebayo scored on a layup seven seconds later before Brown made his own layup to make it 102-91 with 2:04 to play.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope drilled a 3-pointer with 1:49 left, and Brown buried a trey 28 seconds later to make it 108-91 and Denver closed it out.
The Heat have dropped six of eight games since taking a 3-0 lead over the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals. They have lost four straight at home.
"We have no quit," Butler said. "We're going to continue to fight and get better, starting tomorrow."
The Nuggets shot 49.4 percent from the field, including 14 of 28 (50 percent) from 3-point range. Brown shot 8-for-11, and Michael Porter Jr. added 11 points.
The Heat made 44.9 percent of their field-goal attempts and were 8 of 25 (32 percent) from behind the arc. Adebayo committed seven of Miami's 15 turnovers.
Gordon scored seven points in the final 72 seconds of the third quarter. He capped the burst with a 3-pointer with 5.4 seconds remaining as the Nuggets took an 86-73 advantage into the final stanza.
Miami scored the first eight points of the fourth quarter, capped by Butler's three-point play to trim the deficit to five with 8:42 left. Murray connected on a trey 17 seconds later for Denver's first points of the quarter.
The Nuggets led 96-87 after Brown's fastbreak layup with 5:07 remaining. Jokic returned with 4:09 left after sitting out for 5:15 due to being whistled for his fifth foul. Denver led by 10 when he took a seat.
Jokic and Gordon each scored 16 first-half points as the Nuggets led 55-51 at the half. Butler scored 14 in the half for Miami.
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