Nick FriedelESPN staff writer4 minutes to read
Denver – in The Miami Heat set an NBA postseason record for fewest free throw attempts in a game, going to the foul line just twice during a 104-93 loss to the Denver Nuggets in Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Thursday night.
Then, Heat star Jimmy Butler vowed to attack the basket more heading into Game 2 on Sunday night. He did not hesitate when asked why the offense struggled so much to find its rhythm.
“Maybe because we hit a lot of quick shots, maybe I’m leading this set, rather than pressing on the edge,” Butler said after scoring just 13 points. “Getting passes on the ball, getting to the free throw line. When you look at it during the game, they all look like the right shots.
“And I’m not saying we as a team couldn’t do that, but we had to get more passes, we had to get more free throws. And whenever you miss and don’t come back, the game quickly gets out of control. We gave up way too many passes, and he What we can’t happen either. But that’s it. We have to attack the edge much more, including me.”
Heat coach Eric Spoelstra said he liked the 3-point attempts his team was getting, but credited the Nuggets defense for the way it set the tone.
“You have to give them credit for their size and really protect the paint and bring in a third defender,” Spoelstra said. “Things have to be done with more intent, with a lot more pace and with a lot more detail. We are an aggressive attacking team, and so if we don’t get that kind of opportunity on the edge or at the free-throw line, we have to find different ways to be able to do that.”
The Heat fell into an early hole against Nikola Jokic and company in large part because the open look Butler and his teammates used to hit him earlier in the postseason didn’t fall. Heat guard Max Strus went 0-for-10 from the field, becoming just the fourth player to shoot this or worse in an endgame, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. Caleb Martin, who has occasionally held the Heat to the Eastern Conference Finals, went 1-for-7 from the field.
“I like everything we did offensively,” said Strouss. “We could do a little more than that, but the look we got, we’ll live with those. We know we’re better shooters than that.”
Martin echoed the same sentiment.
“I love the look, and I think we’ll get more looks,” he said. “I think this game was kind of a professional game; well, he decided half of it. I think we started to decide it in the second half, but the looks we got, the shots we missed, it’s laughable nice. We’re much better than what we called tonight.”
The Heat lost Game 1 in a series for the first time this postseason, but Spoelstra remained confident, saying he believes his group will rally around each other the same way they have for the past month and a half. He said he didn’t think he needed to say anything extra to Strauss and Martin to help them find rhythm.
“They’re fine,” Spoelstra said. “I mean, they’re not going to get sick at sea. If they’re shooters, you’re not always going to be able to make all the shots you want. Then you have to find different ways to influence the game.
“Our game isn’t just built on the 3-point ball. We’ve proven it time and time again. We can win games. We can win series, no matter which way the three go. But we also have players that are combustible. You see a couple passes and that can turn Also to an avalanche. One way or another, we have to find a way to get the job done.”
Butler said he thought he would respond to the initial setback and set a better tone in game two.
“You have to attack and attack everyone, not just one individual,” said Butler. “I have to do a better job of setting up the assist, one, two guys, and getting to my shooter, or finishing at the edge, and shooting.
“But we lost a lot tonight, and we’ll be better in Game 2. At the end of the day, it’s what it is, and we’ll take that and we’ll learn from it, and we’ll be back in a couple of days.”
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