Michael Porter Jr. helped the Denver Nuggets to a 59-42 lead over the Miami Heat in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. The athletic forward’s size and length have caused the Heat problems on both ends of the floor.
While jostling with Heat center Bam Adebayo under the boards, this play happened:
Nuggets starting point guard Jamal Murray drove into the lane but was met by four Miami Heat players. Jimmy Butler poked the ball loose towards Adebayo and Porter Jr.
Miami’s All-Star big man couldn’t get hold of the ball and swung his arm backward which hit Porter Jr. square in the face. The former Missouri Tiger superstar crumpled on the floor following the hit. Fans in the stadium shouted toward the referees for refusing to call a foul on Adebayo for the incident.
The Nuggets called a timeout after the Heat scored a bucket on the other hand. Fortunately, “MPJ” was only banged up and returned right after the play was halted.
Michael Porter Jr. has been one of the biggest reasons for the Nuggets’ dominance inside the paint on both ends of the floor. Jimmy Butler hunted him down on one possession but Porter Jr. was up to the task. He emphatically swatted away Butler’ jump shot.
Nuggets coach Mike Malone has assigned the lanky forward to guard Caleb Martin. Denver isn’t going to take a chance on the former undrafted player, who is having a superb postseason, to get his rhythm.
Porter Jr. has been all over him and even blocked his shot as he went in for a forceful layup. “MPJ” finished the first half with 10 points, seven rebounds and two blocks.
Michael Porter Jr. is showing off his growth defensively for the Denver Nuggets
There was no question that Michael Porter Jr. was a gifted offensive player. He was nabbed by the Denver Nuggets as the 14th pick in the 2018 Draft. Many analysts would have drafted him higher if not for a few red flags regarding his back.
The Nuggets took the risk and didn’t get the benefits of the pick right away due to the nagging back issues. He averaged 19.9 points and 7.3 rebounds during the 2020-21 season. He hit 54.2% from the field, including 44.5% from deep.
However, the Nuggets knew they had a blossoming star and gave him a massive extension. He played just nine games last season, much to the frustration of the Denver fan base.
Michael Porter Jr. is healthy now and is making an impact for his team, and not just on the offensive end. He has been solid on the defensive side, using his size and length to bother opponents from 1-4.
He will likely be one of those tasked with containing Heat superstar Jimmy Butler in this series. Mike Malone will probably also use Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Bruce Brown on “Jimmy Buckets.” Brown and “KCP” however, don’t have the size and length to consistently bother one of the postseason’s best players.
Michael Porter Jr. assured Denver Nuggets fans that he will be ready with whatever defensive assignment he will be asked to do. He has proven to be up to the task in the first three-quarters of Game 1.