Nuggets stars Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray looked relatively mortal in Game 4 of the NBA Finals on Friday, combining for a series-low 38 points on 13-of-36 (36.1%) shooting as they faced increased attention from Heat defenders.
However, Denver still pulled out a victory thanks in large part to contributions from complementary players like Aaron Gordon and Bruce Brown. Gordon scored a game-high 27 points on 11-of-15 shooting while also dishing six assists. Brown was 8-of-11 from the floor for 21 points. As Ramona Shelburne of ESPN details, Gordon has exceeded the expectations the Nuggets had when they acquired him from Orlando at the 2021 trade deadline.
“We didn’t realize how talented he was,” Nuggets GM Calvin Booth told Shelburne after Game 4. “We didn’t realize what a consummate teammate he was and how willing he was to sacrifice.”
As for Brown, he became the latest reserve guard to play a starring role for the Nuggets on the road in this series after Christian Braun had an outsized impact in Game 3, writes Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today. As with Gordon, the Nuggets knew they were getting a good player when they signed Brown in free agency last summer, but he has been even better than they hoped.
“Can I say that I envisioned him scoring 11 points (in the fourth quarter) on the road in Game 4 of the Finals?” head coach Michael Malone said on Friday. “I can’t say that. But I did envision him being a ball-handler, a play-maker.”
Here’s more on the Nuggets:
- A floor burn suffered in the Nuggets’ Game 3 win didn’t have a major impact on Murray, whose increase in production from the regular season to the playoffs puts him in rare company, according to John Hollinger of The Athletic. As Hollinger details, no player in NBA history has a bigger gap than Murray between his career regular PER (16.4) and his mark in the postseason (22.3).
- Nick Kosmider of The Athletic explores why Braun is such an ideal fit in the backcourt next to Murray. The rookie is poised to take on a larger role in the Nuggets’ rotation next season and beyond, especially if the team is unable to re-sign Brown.
- Having agreed to acquire a 2024 first-round pick from the Thunder, the Nuggets may use that selection – or their own 2024 first-rounder – in an effort to move up in this year’s draft, a source tells Mike Singer of The Denver Post. The Nuggets own the No. 40 pick in 2023 and are also acquiring No. 37 in the deal with Oklahoma City, so they should have more than enough ammo to move into the first round if they’re willing to move a 2024 first-round pick.
- French big man Ismael Kamagate, the 46th overall pick in the 2022 draft, will likely remain in Europe for at least one more year, sources tell Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports (Twitter link). Kamagate was drafted by the Nuggets last June but remained with Paris Basketball for the 2022/23 season. Denver “really likes” the 22-year-old, according to Wind, but wants to be patient with his development.