MIAMI — By the end of Tuesday night's thriller, Nuggets wing Torrey Craig had become such a nuisance to the Heat's cause that Erik Spoelstra was singling out the former G Leaguer from the sidelines.
"At the end they put Kelly Olynyk on me," Craig said. "He was face guarding me, so I wouldn't get rebounds. I heard the coach say, 'Just don't let him get a rebound.'"
One night after chasing MVP favorite James Harden around the court in a loss at Houston, Craig played 39 minutes, embraced guarding nearly every position, hauled in a career-high 16 rebounds and scored 11 points on three 3-pointers.
"Torrey Craig was our MVP," Nuggets coach Michael Malone said following his team's 103-99 win that improved their record to 27-12.
Nikola Jokic had just buried a near-impossible game-winning floater to cap off his fourth triple-double of the season (29 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists), and yet Craig took Tuesday's honors.
"What didn't he do?" said Malone. "I have a feeling every time we switched Torrey onto a different player, that player was saying, 'Man, this guy's a pain in the butt to have to play against.'"
Of Craig's 16 rebounds, six came on the offensive glass as the Nuggets owned a 23-11 advantage on second-chance points. None was more significant than Craig's tip-in off a missed Paul Millsap free throw with 2:02 left and the Nuggets clinging to a two-point lead.
"Certain guys don't box out," Craig said. "You kind of know when to go, you kind of have to cat-and-mouse it."
Craig timed Millsap's missed free throw and snuck in between Justise Winslow and Bam Adebayo, both of whom played the carom off the rim instead of finding a body to block out. Adebayo could only drop his head as he collected the ball out of the basket, well aware that Craig's effort had got the best of him.
"It's a hustle play, it's a desire play," Malone said.
Jokic had a different opinion of Craig's career night.
"He's stealing my rebounds," Jokic joked.
Before Jokic nailed his ridiculous game-winner, he said he was trying to leave as little time on the clock as possible so the Heat wouldn't be able to respond. But with six seconds left and the game tied at 99, Jokic rumbled up to Jamal Murray's defender, Josh Richardson, set a soft screen, rolled toward the lane and awaited the delicate bounce pass.
Murray's pocket pass found Jokic mid-stride and gave him a good foundation before he launched off his right foot.
"I love floaters, all kind of floaters," Jokic said. "I love them."
The Nuggets improved to 5-1 on the second night of back-to-backs this season, which is even more impressive considering the allure of South Beach.
"I went to sleep at four, and I'm hoping my guys went to sleep before I went to sleep," Malone said. "Miami has its many temptations."
The Nuggets survived both them and the Heat on Tuesday night.