MIAMI — What can Brown do for the Denver Nuggets?
He has them one win from their first championship in franchise history.
Bruce Brown scored 21 points off the bench to help Denver beat the Miami Heat 108-95 in Game 4 of the NBA Finals on Friday night. He was at his best after Nikola Jokic exited early in the fourth quarter because of foul trouble, helping the Nuggets weather the storm instead of blowing another double-digit lead.
Knowing the Heat would focus on trying to take Jamal Murray out of the game, Brown put his mind to being assertive — and it worked.
“The other four players were going to have to make plays,” Brown said. “Luckily, it was just my time.”
Was it ever. Brown shot 4 of 5 from the field and scored 11 points in the fourth quarter alone, playing a major role in fending off the Heat without Jokic on the floor for several minutes.
“Bruce Brown in the fourth quarter was amazing,” coach Michael Malone said. “They were giving Jamal so much attention that, let’s get Jamal off the ball, let Bruce make some plays. He was aggressive, got to the basket, made shots and tonight was an impressive performance.”
It was the second time in as many games an unheralded Nuggets player helped seal a victory. Rookie Christian Braun — whose last name is also pronounced like “Brown” — scored 15 points in Game 3 on Wednesday.
“Bruce can hoop,” said Murray, who scored 15 points. "We got a bunch of guys that can come into the game and impact it. You can’t just focus on me or ‘Jok.' You have to guard everybody, and tonight was another example.”
Denver led by 10 when Jokic picked up his fifth foul with 9:24 left in the fourth. The lead shrank to as few as five points before Murray scored or assisted on 10 consecutive points.
Quickly, it became Brown's show. In a stretch starting with just over five minutes left, he made a running layup, sank a couple of free throws, hit a pullup jumper and scored driving to the basket.
Brown's final bucket of the night was a step-back three that put the Nuggets up 108-91 with 1:21 left in the game. Jokic admitted he wasn't thrilled when the shot first went up.
"He did a step-back three," Jokic said. "I almost — I wanted to punch him, but when he made it I was so happy."
It was quite the impact from Brown, signed away from the Brooklyn Nets last offseason in free agency. Malone saw what Brown did defensively against Boston's Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum in the playoffs and hoped the 26-year-old would be able to help run Denver's offense.
“Can I say that I envisioned him scoring 11 points on the road in Game 4 of the finals? I can't say that,” Malone said. “But I did envision him being a ballhandler, a playmaker.”
Brown, a University of Miami product, saw that in himself, too, and felt he needed a chance to show it in the pros. A second-round pick of Detroit in 2018, he displayed flashes but still had a hole missing in his game early in his career: He couldn't shoot.
“They left me wide open and let me shoot, so that took a toll on my confidence, but it put a chip on my shoulder,” Brown said. “I just got in the gym and worked, and now it’s showing on the biggest stage.”
That showing on this stage made Malone beam that Brown is “not afraid.”
The moment certainly wasn't too big for Brown, but it wasn't yet a chance for him to reflect on his roller coaster journey to this point.
“Doing that on this stage, this is amazing,” he said. “But I'll think about it when we’re done.”
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