The well-rested Denver Nuggets nearly ran the Miami Heat off the floor in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. Denver had a 21-point lead entering the fourth quarter despite two-time MVP Nikola Jokic attempting just five shots.
Only an 11-0 run to start the final period and a final push at the four-minute mark made the score a little respectable. The Nuggets dominated the game from start to finish behind Jokic’s triple-double and Jamal Murray’s superb game.
The two were responsible for 87 of the Nuggets’ 104 points and caused the Heat problems throughout the game. Miami coach Erik Spoelstra tried different defensive games to counter the Jokic and Murray two-man game and nothing worked consistently.
If the Miami Heat can’t find a way to slow them down, they will again be in a heap of trouble.
Jimmy Butler scored just 13 points, his lowest in the playoffs for the Miami Heat. He shot just 6-14 and didn’t go to the free-throw line a single time.
Caleb Martin, Max Strus and Duncan Robinson shot 2-23 from the field. Strus and Robinson were 1-14 from behind the arc.
The Heat hit 5-16 from deep (31%) from open threes in Game 1. They were nearly 49% in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Celtics. If they can start hitting those, Game 2 should be more of a seesaw battle.
The Miami Heat looked like a team that just finished a grueling seven-game series and had to travel cross country to be in Denver. Several of their shots fell short and they looked gassed by the end of the second quarter. The two-day gap between the series opener and Game 2 should help them deal with the altitude in Mile High City.
Where to watch
Game 2 of the 2023 NBA Finals between the Miami Heat and Denver Nuggets will start at 8:00 PM ET. ABC will air the game on national TV. Basketball fans can also catch the action by streaming the game via the NBA League Pass.
Jimmy Butler vowed before Game 2 that will keep on passing to open Miami Heat shooters after Game 1’s performance. He insisted that they were not the reason the Heat lost.
The Heat better shoot efficiently or they’re going to home facing a 0-2 deficit against the Denver Nuggets.
“Jimmy Buckets” vowed to be more aggressive, particularly in attacking the rim. He has been one of the best in the NBA in drawing fouls and going to the free-throw line. The Miami Heat attempted just two free throws in the series opener, the worst in any playoff game.
Miami coach Erik Spoelstra added before Game 2 that the disparity in free throw shots was just about right. He noted the Heat’s lack of aggressiveness and sense of urgency. Denver’s height and length bothered the Heat but those shouldn’t be enough to make them hesitant.
Tyler Herro was rumored to be returning for Game 2 but remains out. Caleb Martin didn’t practice due to illness and has been ruled questionable. If Martin, who has been crucial to the Heat’s playoff success will not play, Miami will be in even bigger trouble.
The Denver Nuggets, immediately after Game 1, insisted that they have done nothing yet. They repeatedly mentioned the Heat’s resilience, grit and poise. The Nuggets vowed to be just as determined if not even more so than what they showed on Thursday.
Denver coach Mike Malone will continue going to the Jokic-Murray two-man game. The Heat were helpless against them to start the series. Until Miami figures something out, the Nuggets will consistently go there.
Spread: Nuggets (-8.5)
Total (O/U): 215.5
Moneyline: Heat (+275) vs Nuggets (-429)
The Miami Heat will make adjustments and they should be more acclimated to Mile High City’s altitude. These will not matter as the Denver Nuggets, who are unbeaten at home in the playoffs, will continue to roll in the NBA Finals.
Denver Nuggets 115, Miami Heat 105