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NBA-Heat running out of time to find answer to Jokic


(Reuters) – The dominance of Denver center Nikola Jokic through the first three games of the NBA Finals has dampened Miami’s title hopes and the Heat must find a way to nullify the towering Serb if they are to avoid falling behind 3-1 in the championship series.

Jokic had 32 points, 21 rebounds and 10 assists in the Nuggets’ 109-94 victory on Wednesday that put them 2-1 up in the best-of-seven series. That effort saw him become the first player to log at least 30 points, 20 rebounds and 10 assists in a Finals game.

Denver bullied Miami on their home floor, out-rebounding the Heat 58-33 and outscoring them 60-34 in the paint.

Miami center Bam Adebayo has been given the unenviable task of matching up against two-time league MVP Jokic and said trying to predict what play the dynamic 28-year-old will go to next is the key to stopping him.

“Biggest thing is just read and react,” Adebayo told reporters on Thursday.

“Easier said than done, obviously. But pretty much read and react and watch film.”

The Heat have relished their role as giant killers during the playoffs after upsetting the Bucks, Knicks and Celtics but they have been unable to stifle the tandem of Jokic and sharpshooter Jamal Murray, who also had a triple-double on Wednesday.

Murray said he and Jokic were focused on delivering a first NBA championship for Denver.

“We both got our mind on winning, whatever it takes,” Murray said.

Jokic said he looks at the variety of defenses the Heat throw at him as a puzzle.

“It’s kind of like a chess game. They are one move, we are another move,” he said.

“I think this is the time where the players show what they’ve got.”

Game Four is on Friday in Miami.

(Reporting by Rory Carroll in Los Angeles; Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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