Miami Heat forward Kevin Love (42) defends Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray (27) during the second half of Game 4 of the basketball NBA Finals, Friday, June 9, 2023, in Miami. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Kevin Love missed Miami’s team flight to Denver for Game 5 of the NBA Finals. He had the best possible excuse.

Love and his wife, Kate Bock, became parents on Saturday. Love flew to Denver on his own, arriving in time for the team’s film session and media responsibilities on Sunday.

Game 5 is Monday, with the Nuggets leading the Heat 3-1 in the series. Love plans to play.

“Definitely need to get some rest now, get some sleep,” Love said in Denver during the media session Sunday afternoon. “Everybody’s happy and healthy.”

The Heat will try to become the second team in history to successfully rally from a 3-1 deficit in the NBA Finals. The other was the 2016 Cleveland Cavaliers — a team that Love also played for.


Even in this era of more scoring — the 114.7 points per game average by teams in the regular season was the highest in the NBA in 53 years — make no mistake: Defense still wins.

Especially in the NBA Finals.

Miami is 0-3 in these finals when scoring fewer than 100 points, continuing a trend. Teams that haven’t scored at least 100 points have now lost 14 consecutive games in the NBA Finals, including all four losses for Boston against Golden State last season.

The last team to score fewer than 100 and win a finals game was Cleveland, which beat Golden State 93-89 in Game 7 of the 2016 finals.


No player has ever led the NBA in total points, rebounds and assists in the same postseason.

Denver’s Nikola Jokic might be the first. That is, unless Miami’s Jimmy Butler outscores him by a mere two points throughout the rest of these NBA Finals.

Jokic has NBA-highs of 572 points, 253 rebounds and 186 assists in these playoffs. The total rebound lead is pretty much clinched; Miami’s Bam Adebayo is 38 rebounds behind Jokic. Same goes for the total assist lead; Nuggets teammate Jamal Murray is 52 behind Jokic.

But the points race is very much up for grabs. Butler has 571 points so far in the playoffs, just one back of Jokic. It should be noted that Butler’s scoring total doesn’t include 52 points from the play-in games; the NBA does not include those in official “postseason” totals.


If he plays in Game 5 — and there’s no reason to think that he won’t — Miami’s Max Strus will be appearing in his 105th game of the season.

It’s been a long time since a player got into that many contests.

The last season in which somebody appeared in 105 games was 2009-10, when five members of the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics — Derek Fisher, Lamar Odom, Shannon Brown and Jordan Farmar for the Lakers, Rajon Rondo for the Celtics — all played in that many contests.

If the Heat-Nuggets series goes to Game 6 and Strus plays, he’ll be the first to appear in 106 games since Boston’s Paul Pierce in 2007-08.

And if this title series goes the distance and Strus gets to 107 games played, he’ll be the first to do that since Detroit’s Tayshaun Prince in 2004-05. Prince didn’t miss a single game that season; Strus has missed two games this season.

Game 5 will be a milestone game for Denver’s Bruce Brown and Miami’s Bam Adebayo as well. Both are set to play in their 100th game of the season.

The only other player who reached 100 games this year was Boston’s Derrick White, who got into 102.


Game 5 will be Miami’s 107th game of the season, tying for the second-most in NBA history.

Boston played a record 108 games in 2007-08. New York played 107 games in 1993-94, and Detroit also played 107 in 2004-05.

Miami’s total is aided a bit by the two play-in games that the Heat had to endure just to get into the postseason. The previous franchise record for most games played in a season was 105, done during Heat championship years of 2005-06 and 2012-13.

Game 5 will be Denver’s 102nd game of the season, tying Boston for the second-most in the league.


Miami’s Jimmy Butler, on being down 3-1: “We didn’t come this far to stop playing now. No matter what the odds are, the analytics, when we get out there we’ve just got to compete. We’ve got to win one, and then we’ve got to win another one, and then we’ve got to win another one.”

Denver’s Nikola Jokic, on Toronto hiring fellow Serbian Darko Rajakovic as coach: “I think it’s a lot of respect for him and his work. I think he deserves it. He’s seen a lot, he’s been through a lot, and I think he deserves it. He’s going to do a great job there.”


— Denver is one point from tying its franchise record for most points in a season, including playoffs. The 1984-85 Nuggets scored 11,671; this Nuggets team has 11,670. (Miami has already broken its franchise record for points in a season. The Heat are up to 11,587 entering Game 5.)

— The league’s 30 teams are shooting a combined 78.3% from the foul line this season, including all games. It will be an NBA record, topping the 77.8% rate from two seasons ago. That 0.5% margin might not look like much, but the Heat and Nuggets would have to shoot a combined 0-for-344 from the line to fall below the record pace.

— A good omen for Miami: Road teams are 11-5 all-time in NBA Finals games played on June 12.

— A good omen for Denver: The Heat are 0-3 all-time in NBA Finals games played on June 12.

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