The Miami Heat have made sure to throw the pace of the 2023 NBA Finals into Karo Syrup. The Denver Nuggets have the best offensive rating of any team in the 2023 postseason, but have yet to score 110 points in the finals. This Heat run through the postseason has been mind-boggling, but after three games they are again down one game to the Nuggets. The only team that they have trailed in a 2023 postseason series. They are wrangling the Nuggets’ offense as best they can, but to pull off a third upset they need to play Tyler Herro’s music as soon as possible.
Depth and 3-point shooting are what the Heat are going to have to continue to ride to win the 2023 NBA Championship. They are going up against an opponent that not only has a better starting lineup, but is capable of muscling the Heat all over the floor. The Boston Celtics’ size was a problem in the Eastern Conference Finals, but the Heat were able to keep them at bay with their tenacity.
Effort will not be enough to negate a size advantage in these finals. Even in the Heat’s Game 2 victory, they were still outrebounded by the Nuggets. In their Game 3 loss, they were outrebounded 58-32. That is with Bam Adebayo hauling in 17 boards. The Heat will have to continue to fight for long rebounds on offense, claw at the glass on defense, and also make sure that Christian Braun never again in this series scores 15 points — mostly in the paint.
Still, with the Heat’s grit and guile not being enough to entirely negate their David to the Nuggets’ Goliath, their only hope is knockdown 3-point shooting. The 27th-best 3-point shooting team in the regular season has been No. 1 in the postseason. They shot 33.3 percent from three in Game 1 and lost. In Game 2 they went 48.6 percent from three and still had to hold off a late Nuggets’ run to win. As always, the Heat’s effort was present in Game 3, but they shot only 31.4 percent from three and lost 109-94.
Herro broke his shooting hand in Game 1 of the Heat’s first-round series against the Milwaukee Bucks. Once diagnosed, the thought was that he could return to the floor if the Heat advanced to the NBA Finals — a surprising actual attempt at an assessment as opposed to what NBA teams usually make public.
With the Heat unexpectedly advancing to the finals, questions have arisen about what to do with the 2021-22 NBA Sixth Man of the Year. The Heat will have to work to hide Herro’s defensive liabilities, but much of that can be handled by how they have dictated the pace of every game. The other concern is whether or not he will upset the Heat’s rhythm that has them three games away from a fourth NBA Championship.
For those NBA fans who remember the Orlando Magic in the 2009 NBA Finals inserting Jameer Nelson into a red-hot lineup after an injury, you all need to accept that it wasn’t his fault that his team lost. The Magic had multiple opportunities to extend that series past five games and while Nelson didn’t shoot well and played far fewer minutes than usual, it’s not his fault that the Lakers attempted 24 fewer threes than the Magic in that series and still shot a much better percentage.
The Magic lost because the year was 2009 and their long-range shooting wasn’t good enough to defeat a team as big and skilled as the Lakers. A 6-foot-10 Lamar Odom initiated offense for them, with a 7-foot Pau Gasol able to score and pass from the post. The Lakers were far more versatile and skilled than the team with the best regular-season record in the NBA that season — the Cleveland Cavaliers that the Magic defeated in the Eastern Conference Finals.
The Heat are not the 2009 Magic. They shoot better, but have nowhere near that kind of size of a team that used Hedo Türkoğlu and Rashard Lewis on the perimeter. Length is an automatic disadvantage for the Heat, so if Herro can tally anywhere near his 37.8 2022-23 regular-season 3-point percentage he should be put on the floor.
As great of an offense as the Nuggets have, the 3-point shooting advantage still belongs to the Heat for both the finals and the entire postseason. Without that advantage, the Heat would be down 3-0.
Shooting from behind the arc is the Heat’s ticket to a fourth championship. The Nuggets can also shoot from back there, but depth is certainly in the Heat’s favor. If Herro can return for Game 4, on offense he has the capability of turning the Heat’s offense into something that the Nuggets cannot reasonably defend. A team with eight capable 3-point shooters. Again, the Nuggets’ rotation is only eight players deep.
A healthy Herro can do nothing but help the Heat. They can continue to grind the pace of the game to a halt so that his defensive deficiencies don’t matter. What they desperately need is one more shooter the Nuggets have to respect. Timely shooting will be the deciding factor in the 2023 NBA Finals, and the Heat taking advantage of having the Nuggets outnumbered in that department is their only chance at winning the franchise’s fourth NBA Championship.