The Denver Nuggets breezed past the Miami
Heat in Game 1 of the 2023 NBA Finals, outclassing their Eastern Conference
opponents 104-93 on Thursday night at the Ball Arena. Nikola Jokic led the way
for the Nuggets in their first Finals matchup in franchise history, finishing
with 27 points, 10 rebounds, and 14 assists to become just the second player
after Jason Kidd to put up a triple-double on their Finals debut.
Jamal Murray also chipped in with 26 points
for the Nuggets, while three other players – Aaron Gordon, Michael Porter Jr,
and Bruce Brown – posted double digits in a dominant win from start to finish
for Michael Malone’s team.
The Nuggets enjoyed the benefits of a
ten-day rest period ahead of game one following their comprehensive 4-0 sweep
over the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Finals. The Heat,
meanwhile, played four times since the last time Denver took the court, going
the full seven against Boston, and felt the effects of the rigorous schedule
against the league’s best home side.
Jimmy Buttler struggled to find his way
through a determined Denver defence, managing just 13 points on 14 field goal
attempts, while Eastern Conference Finals star Caleb Martin scored just three
points in 24 minutes on a cold shooting night for Erik Spoelstra’s side.
Bam Adebayo led the way for the Heat,
overcoming his scoring struggles from the previous round against the Celtics to
post 26 points and 13 rebounds on a career-high 25 shots taken. Gabe Vincent
also added 19, while Haywood Highsmith provided a productive 18 points off the
bench. However, neither were enough to trouble a Denver team that trailed for
only 34 seconds in the entire game and led by as many as 24.
Denver have dominated on their homecourt
throughout the season, remaining unbeaten in the playoffs and losing just 7 of
42 regular season games at home. While Spoelstra’s Miami won each of their
first three road games in the 2023 playoffs, the Heat couldn’t contain the
Nikola Jokic-fuelled Denver offence that cruised their way to a 17-point lead
Jokic had ten assists in the first half,
only the second player after LeBron James to achieve this feat in the last 25
years. Ther two-time MVP finished with an efficient night of 8 of 12 from the
field and 10 of 12 from the free-throw line on his way to his 15th playoff
Miami showed some life in the fourth,
opening the final quarter on an 11-0 run, but barely managed to contain the
deficit to single digits as Denver closed out the win to secure the early
advantage in the series.