Aaron Gordon scored a career playoff high 27 points in an all-out attack on the Miami Heat on Friday that helped push the Denver Nuggets to the brink of their first NBA championship.
Gordon led all scorers in the Nuggets’ 108-95 victory over the Heat in Miami that put Denver up 3-1 in the best-of-seven NBA Finals.
The player once known for his dunking prowess — including runner-up finishes in the 2016 and 2020 All-Star weekend slam-dunk contests — showed just how versatile he has become as he connected on 11 of 15 shots from the field — including three of four from three-point range.
“Making threes, getting to the foul line, guarding at a high level — Aaron did it all for us tonight, he really did,” Nuggets coach Mike Malone said.
Gordon erupted for 15 points in the second quarter as the Nuggets — who trailed by one after Jimmy Butler’s three-pointer to close the first period — took a 55-51 halftime lead.
“This team does a good job finding the people that are kind of in a rhythm and kind of going,” Gordon said. “When it comes down to it, it’s just wanting to be great for my teammates. I know when my teammates need me and just doing it for my brothers.”
He made his first three attempts from three-point range — including one from the corner that put Denver up 86-73 with five seconds left in the third quarter.
“I’m just taking the ones that they’re giving me, taking the open shots,” said Gordon, who was staring down the Heat bench before the ball had cleared the net.
“It’s just gamesmanship,” he said. “That’s part of the game. When you make a three in the corner with the opposition’s bench, you can have a little fun with them.”
Teammate Kentavious Caldwell-Pope wasn’t surprised to see a few long-range shots fall for Gordon — he’s given him some advice.
“I always tell AG, man, continue to play his game. When you’re shooting threes, no up, no in, so make sure you get that ball up so it can go in. He did that tonight.”
Gordon’s big second quarter helped the Nuggets gain control even as Nikola Jokic shook off a twisted ankle.
When foul trouble sidelined Jokic for more than five minutes in the fourth, Bruce Brown took it to Miami.
Brown scored 21 points in 30 minutes off the bench, pouring in 11 in the final period as the Nuggets repelled every Heat run.
Miami had cut the deficit to eight when Brown converted a three-point play to push Denver’s lead back to double digits.
His pull-up three-pointer with 1:21 remaining was the final dagger, giving Denver a 108-91 lead.
“We knew they were going to trap Jamal (Murray) and try to get the ball out of his hands, so the other four players were going to have to make plays, and then luckily it was just my time in the fourth quarter,” Brown said.