With the Heat leading and Nikola Jokić on the bench to start the second quarter, the Nuggets dominated the game. Jun 4, 2023; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray (27) reacts after a play against the Miami Heat during the second quarter in game two of the 2023 NBA Finals at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Heat started the first quarter of Game 2 of the NBA Finals well, taking a lead after one quarter. When the second quarter started, Denver Nuggets’ superstar Nikola Jokić, was on the bench. That was a golden opportunity for the Heat to take control.

It didn’t happen. In fact, the exact opposite happened.

The Nuggets closed the first quarter strong, but still trailed 26-23. If there was any concern in Denver that the deficit would grow with Jokić taking a breather, it was quickly alleviated. When Jokić re-entered the game with 7:05 remaining in the second quarter, the Nuggets had assumed control and led 44-35. If we include the two free throws Jeff Green made (which prompted Jokić’s return), the Nuggets outscored the Heat 23-9 with the two-time NBA MVP on the bench.

And while that run didn’t end the game, it did have a decidedly different feel to it.

NBA fans watching Game 2 took strong notice of Denver’s run in Jokić’s absence.

If Miami is going to beat Denver, the Heat will need to take full advantage of the moments when Jokić is on the bench. This is especially true for the games in Denver, one of which the Heat must win if they’re going to win the series.

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