Nuggets beat the Heat again, Michael Porter Jr. continues hot play

Mar 13, 2024, 8:32 PM

The Denver Nuggets just beat the Miami Heat again, handing their former NBA Finals foe a 12th loss in the last 13 times the teams have matched up. This time around it was in South Florida as the Nuggets eeked out a hard-fought 100-88 win where Denver’s size once more impressed.

While Nikola Jokic did his thing it was the forwards playing alongside him that powered the Nuggets past Miami. Michael Porter Jr. scored a game-high 25 points on an efficient 16 shots, adding seven rebounds. Aaron Gordon was a game-high plus-17 on the floor, scoring 16, snagging eight rebounds and throwing four assists.

“If teams are going to sell out and take Nikol away, somebody else has to step up and help carry the load. and we have plenty of examples of that this evening,” head coach Michael Malone said.

Jokic of course, did his thing, scoring 12 points on eight shots, adding 14 rebounds and six assists. But it was possibly the dream game for Jokic, who saw all of his teammates step up.

“In the Western Conference, to be a team that is hoping to have a deep playoff run, you got to have quality depth,” Malone said. “I mean, like it’s you’re never going to win with just one player. And we won a championship last year because yes, Nikola is a great player, Finals MVP, Jamal Murray was a superhuman during the playoffs last year, but every other player you know, from KCP, to Aaron to Michael, to Bruce Brown to Jeff Green last year, they all stepped up and they were the best version of themselves and their respective roles. And good teams have that. You look across the NBA, one guy may not have a night, other players step up. And I think the biggest thing for us is that all of our players trust in each other. And it’s fun to watch and it’s a great team to coach in that regard.”

For the second-straight battle against the Heat, it was really Porter’s night. He had a 30-point double-double last time out against the culture crew and this time around he banged home five deep balls.

“Did you see the shots I was getting? They were wide-open threes,” Porter told ESPN after the game. “You know a couple of tough middies too. So it’s really my teammates, you know? We gotta a good well-balanced team so when they take something away, we have another option, so that’s what it was tonight.”

Porter has been on a heater since the All-Star Game. Coming into Wednesday he was averaging 20.1 points and 7.7 rebounds a night on 55/41/92% shooting from the field, three and free throw line respectively. This may be the long-awaited star turn for MPJ, who has only gotten better in the past two years. He’s become a more consistent rebounder and finisher—adding strength as a whole, all the while creating a bit better off the bounce, taking care of the ball more and most importantly he’s turned into a reliable defender. This MPJ though is not just one of these things on any given night, he’s all of them combined with the world-renowned shooter he’s known to be.

The performances from Porter have buoyed the Nuggets coming out of the All-Star Break as they improved to 10-1 in the second half. That hot streak has regained Denver the top spot in the West with 16 games to go in the regular season.

“It feels like we’re back where we belong, you know what I mean,” Porter asked ESPN postgame. “We wanted the number one seed. We’ve been playing well since the All-Star Break. We gotta hold it. There are a lot of good teams in the West. We got to just come every game. People are coming for our spot.”

While the Nuggets and just about everyone on the team has played well the past month, one player hasn’t—Reggie Jackson. The veteran guard has struggled for an extended stretch, but on Wednesday he lit it up late to burry the hometown Heat with three late-game jump shots, earning a closing nod from Malone.

“You look at what Reggie (Jackson) has gone through as of late—I know that he is a better player than he’s played as of late—and for him to stick with it,” Malone said. “I just gave him a hug and said ‘I was so proud of you’. And he said,’ Well, Coach, thank you for sticking with me.'”


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