NBA Finals: 3 takeaways from Nuggets’ dominant Game 1 win against Heat

Denver Nuggets started the NBA Finals with a 104-93 victory against Miami Heat at the Ball Arena in Denver on Thursday.

Published : Jun 02, 2023 15:44 IST , CHENNAI - 3 MINS READ

Nikola Jokic registered 27 points, 10 rebounds and 14 assists in the first game against the Heat.
Nikola Jokic registered 27 points, 10 rebounds and 14 assists in the first game against the Heat. | Photo Credit: AP

Nikola Jokic registered 27 points, 10 rebounds and 14 assists in the first game against the Heat. | Photo Credit: AP

The NBA Finals are underway. And with them, come the early predictions on who takes home the Larry O’Brien trophy.

Seeing how Denver Nuggets outclassed Miami Heat in the opening game, many would be lured into picking the first-time NBA finalists as the favourites.

It was one-way traffic from start to finish. People say it is the altitude that helps the Nuggets - a team undefeated at home these playoffs. Maybe, that’s true. But on Thursday night, coach Michael Malone’s team gave a glimpse of its calibre too, and why they won the Western Conference honours.

Nikola Jokic produced yet another triple-double performance – 27 points, 10 rebounds, 14 assists – but the side around him, too, delivered in the game.

Aaron Gordon’s early dominance

Aaron Gordon came as quite the surprise for Miami Heat. When you face a Nuggets team which features two-time Most Valuable Player Jokic, naturally you want your best men guarding him.

That’s what the Heat did.

But the Nuggets had other plans to one-up their opponents. Jokic never entered the paint. The Nuggets stationed Gordon under the rim. With Bam Adebayo occupied trying to contain ‘the Joker’, Gordon wrecked havoc in the first quarter.

12 of his 16 points in the game came in the first period. Miami’s lack of supporting big men was laid bare as the Nuggets took a comfortable nine-point lead. A nine-point lead in a quarter when Jokic scored just two points. That’s a statement.

Miami Heat’s shooting trouble

The Heat struggled to shoot consistently. It was one of those days.

Caleb Martin scored three points and Max Strus failed to open his account altogether. Duncan Robinson too gave just three points off the bench. Three significant contributors to the team failed to make a mark. In the Finals, against a team as good as the Nuggets, that’s going to cost you. Period.

Miami Heat makes nearly 40% shots from a distance of 25-29 feet. It leads the playoffs in three-point efficiency at nearly 39%. On Thursday, this number dropped down to 33%.

The lopsided scoreline hints that the Nuggets might have been better from downtown. They were not. The Nuggets shot at 29.6% from the three-point range. But they made up for it with better shooting from the paint.

Bam Adebayo’s resurgence

While the Heat succumbed to a defeat, all was not lost for coach Erik Spoelstra.

Even when a bulk of the shooters misfired, Adebayo kept the team going. He had his troubles under the rim in offense against Boston Celtics. On Thursday, he banished them, scoring 26 points at 52% shooting.

The Miami shooting will return. And when it does, Adebayo’s points will prove supplementary. Game winning!

Another player who stepped up against the Nuggets was Haywood Highsmith. His seven-off-10 shooting makes one wonder why he did not find more minutes in the playoffs earlier.

The Heat are now in unfamiliar territory. They won the opening games against Milwaukee Bucks, New York Knicks and Boston Celtics. A 0-1 deficit is new for them.

The fact that it comes against a team which has not lost at home makes a comeback even more challenging.

But one thing that the Heat have done these playoffs is spring surprises. Count them out this early in the series at your own peril.

Sign in to unlock all user benefits
  • Get notified on top games and events
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign up / manage to our newsletters with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early bird access to discounts & offers to our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide to our community guidelines for posting your comment