As many expected, the well-rested Denver Nuggets, who are playing on their home floor, beat the Miami Heat in Game 1. Denver now leads the NBA Finals 1-0 after a mostly dominant win in the series opener.
Basketball fans tossed in their thoughts in what was a largely one-sided win by the top-seeded Nuggets:
"Heat gonna get swept."
The Denver Nuggets had nine days of rest after sweeping the LA Lakers in the Western Conference finals. It showed in Game 1 as they were the more energetic team on both ends of the floor.
The Miami Heat were facing daunting odds. They just finished the Eastern Conference finals after a slugfest of a series. Two nights later, they were trying to beat Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets in Denver's lung-crushing altitude.
Miami also looked unprepared by the Nuggets' size. Aaron Gordon pulverized the Heat interior in the early goings as Bam Adebayo was forced to keep a body on Jokic.
Denver's passing repeatedly allowed Gordon, Michael Porter Jr. and even Jamal Murray to have mismatches in the paint. Miami made adjustments entering the second half but the damage was done already as the Nuggets already had their offense flowing.
Bam Adebayo had a prolific first half, which allowed the Miami Heat to stay in the game. He had 16 points, four rebounds and two assists. The Denver Nuggets countered with balanced scoring led by Jamal Murray's 18 points.
The Miami Heat rattled off 11 straight points to start the fourth quarter to cut Denver's lead to 84-74. Nine points was the closest the Heat got following a Haywood Highsmith 3-pointer.
Nikola Jokic and Jamal Muray, however, had an answer for every time the Heat tried to mount a rally. Jokic finished with 27 points, 14 assists and 10 rebounds, which is his ninth triple-double in the playoffs. He also became the first player since Jason Kidd in 2002 to debut in the Finals with at triple-double.
Murray wasn't too far behind. He had 26 points, 10 assists and six rebounds. The Denver Nuggets' 1-2 punch was the biggest difference in Game 1.
The disparity in free throws between the Miami Heat and Denver Nuggets was glaring
The Miami Heat went 2-2 from the free throw line, the worst in NBA playoff history. They lost by 11 points to a Denver Nuggets team that went 16-20. Miami lived around the perimeter taking mid-range shots and 39 3-pointers.
Max Strus and Duncan Robinson shot a combined 1-14 from deep. If not for Gabe Vincent's 5-10 clip, Miami would have been in far bigger trouble.
Jimmy Butler, who has been one of the best in the playoffs in getting fouls, didn't attempt even one free throw in the game. The Heat should make it a point to be more aggressive. Otherwise, this series could be over quickly.