Star forward Jimmy Butler (C) said Miami Heat players feel great, despite their loss to the Denver Nuggets in Game 3 of the NBA Finals on Wednesday in Miami. Photo by Rhona Wise/EPA-EFE
MIAMI, June 8 (UPI) -- The Miami Heat aren't feeling down, despite a loss to the Denver Nuggets in Game 3 of the NBA Finals, but must become more aggressive and improve energy for Game 4, forward Jimmy Butler told reporters.
"We feel great," Butler said after the Nuggets beat the Heat 109-94 on Wednesday in Miami. "We didn't play our best. I feel like we just got to come out with more energy and effort, and that's correctible. That's on us as a group. No X's and O's can fix that.
"So, [we needed to] come out, dive on the floor, get loose balls, get defensive rebounds and maybe, just maybe, it would have been a different game."
Nuggets coach Mike Malone expressed similar sentiment when he criticized his players for a lack of effort after their Game 2 loss in Denver.
The Nuggets responded Wednesday, outpacing the Heat 60-34 in points in the paint and 14-7 in second-chance points. They held a 65-41 edge in rebounding.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said his players were the ones who needed more effort in Game 2, when they allowed the Nuggets to beat them to loose balls and rebounds.
He said the Heat were "pummeled" in the paint. The Nuggets needed just five made 3-pointers because of their interior dominance.
"They didn't really have to shoot threes," Spoelstra said. "They had, whatever, 60 in the paint. They probably shot over 65% in the paint at the rim there. There wasn't a need to space the floor.
"We didn't offer much resistance."
The Heat made 40% of their 3-point attempts through the first two games of the series, but made just 11 of 35 (31.4%) of their attempts in Game 3. They also made just 37% of their shots overall, compared to the Nuggets' 51.2% shooting mark.
The Heat were out-rebounded by a total of eight rebounds through the first two games of the series. Wednesday's rebounding disparity, 58-33, was among the largest in NBA Finals history.
Spoelstra said the Heat's losses of physical battles, pursuits for loose balls and rebounding might have impacted the rest of their performance.
"That's not an excuse," Spoelstra said. "I think the thing that we've proven over and over and over is we can win and find different ways to win regardless of whether we have confidence, regardless whether the ball is going in.
"We have a determination to impact the game and find a different solution or different way to win a game regardless of whether the ball is going in. It felt like at times, some of those missed shots at the rim or in the paint, the makable shots that we've made the last several months or weeks, that affected a little bit of our [effort]. And that hasn't happened a lot."
Butler scored a team-high 28 points in the loss. Heat center Bam Adebayo chipped in 22 points and 17 rebounds. Nuggets stars Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic dwarfed those performances, becoming the first teammates in history to log 30-point triple-doubles in the same game.
Butler said he needs to keep getting "two feet in the paint," as he did in Game 3, but needs to finish his shots, continue to be a distributor and "stay aggressive."
"I think if guys were open, I've always got to pass it to them," Butler said. "I will continually do that. But if I get two feet in the paint, I'm expected to shoot a layup or a floater, and I'm expected to make it, too."
The Heat will host the Nuggets in Game 4 at 8:30 p.m. EDT Friday in Miami. The series will head to Denver on Monday for Game 5.