Steve Kerr breaks down key adjustment Miami Heat made en route to Game 2 victory over Denver Nuggets

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The Miami Heat changed their starting lineup for Game 2 of the NBA Finals against the Denver Nuggets, and a championship-winning coach said it paid off for them in the victory Sunday that evened the series.

Steve Kerr explained how Miami starting Kevin Love in place of Caleb Martin allowed Jimmy Butler to defend Denver’s Jamal Murray, who managed just 18 points in the 111-108 Heat victory.

“You mentioned them starting Love,” Kerr said during a conversation with Draymond Green. “That allowed Jimmy Butler to guard Murray. And to me, it was like — I haven’t talked to Spo (Erik Spoelstra) or anything like that — but I can see them in their coaches’ meeting saying, ‘Murray’s the head of the snake, not [Nikola] Jokic.’

“If you just look at it, you go, ‘Well, Jokic is the head of the snake.’ But when you play a team, you sort of realize, ‘Wait a second, that guy’s gonna — he’s gonna dominate no matter what we do. So, we got — this is the head of the snake.’ And I think they just decided, ‘Murray’s the guy we gotta stop.’ So, you start Love, put Jimmy Butler on Murray, and then you saw they were blitzing Murray quite a bit and really trying everything to take him out of the game.”

Love and Martin each played close to 22 minutes in Game 2, and the Heat got big contributions on offense from Gabe Vincent, Max Strus and Duncan Robinson.

The Heat took an early lead before the Nuggets offense got rolling to put them ahead by six points at halftime and eight points entering the fourth quarter. In the final period, Miami took control and built a 12-point lead before Denver rallied again. With the Heat leading by three in the final seconds, Butler was guarding Murray, who missed a 3-pointer.

“I just contested it,” Butler said. “Pretty glad that he missed it.”

It was the first loss by Denver at home in 10 such playoff games this season. It was also the team’s first loss in any home game since March 30.

The Heat lost Game 1 on Thursday 104-93 after Miami survived Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Celtics. The Heat had to open the Finals three days later while Denver had been off since May 22 after sweeping the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Finals.

The teams are now much more familiar with each other entering Game 3 in Miami on Wednesday. The Heat could go with the same starting lineup from Game 2, or they could put Martin back in if he is feeling better back at home.

The Nuggets also will make adjustments and perhaps play with more passion after head coach Michael Malone questioned his players’ efforts following the Game 2 loss.

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Mike is a veteran journalist who has covered the NBA for almost three decades. His introduction to the business included the legendary Heat-Knicks rivalry from the 1990s.