For their first in the final, in 47 years of presence in the league, the Denver Nuggets were not paralyzed by the stake, Friday, June 2. Serene and dominating throughout the game, they mastered the Miami Heat at home to win the first round of the NBA Finals (104-93), which is played in the best of seven games.
After a discreet but effective start to the game, the Serbian star Nikola Jokic, twice named best player in the league, gained momentum, first making his teammates shine (14 assists including 10 at the break, 10 rebounds), ultimately signing a ninth triple-double in these final stages, 27 points including 12 in the last quarter. This final runaway was useful in discouraging a still valiant Heat, who returned to nine units after being 24 points behind at the end of the third quarter.
“We respect their team a lot. We just wanted to throw the first punch. In the first three rounds of the playoffs, they won their first away game and we didn't want that to happen. I think we did a good job," commented the "Joker" after the game, which set a new NBA record for triple-doubles in the playoffs, now two more than the legendary Wilt Chamberlain.
In the rhythm of entry
In fact, his team has not suffered from the lack of experience compared to the Heat, which is in search of a fourth title and a return to the last step three years after its failed attempt in the anti-Covid bubble of Orlando. The question arose above all whether the ten days without a game for Denver, rather rested since the sweep inflicted on the Lakers in the Western Conference final, would have the undesirable effect of a lack of rhythm, against Floridians who were certainly tired but arrived with a burst of euphoria, after having had the last laugh on Boston in the seventh game in the East.
The answer was quickly given by Michael Malone's men, accustomed to attacking their matches with a bang and who stuck to it, like Aaron Gordon, author of 12 of his 16 points in the first quarter. already nine points ahead (29-20).
During these first twelve minutes, the Nuggets were very aggressive in the Florida racket, taking advantage of a big advantage over their opponents. An effort maintained throughout, with the reward of 46 points in the painting and an overall address of 50.6% success.
The fact is that Denver has more than one string to its bow, Jamal Murray still proving to be very effective (26 pts at 11 of 22, 10 assists), Michael Porter Jr also weighing offensively (14 pts, 13 rebounds).
Adebayo in the game, not Butler
Opposite, only Bam Adebayo could compete at altitude with the Nuggets. Most often isolated in defense and therefore overwhelmed, the pivot was especially illustrated under the opposing circle (26 pts at 13 out of 25, 13 rebounds). It must be said that Denver's defense focused mainly on the Florida triggers, poisoning the lives of Caleb Martin and Max Strus, reduced to a starving 1 in 17 on shots.
Rarely for the Heat, Jimmy Butler did not have his usual huge contribution (13 pts, 6 of 14, 7 assists), finishing only fourth in his team's top scorer, behind Gabe Vincent (19 pts).
"We don't expect it to be easy when we get to the final. It is a big challenge. But more will have to be done. We will get to work and see what we can do better, stronger, with more effort," promised Florida coach Erik Spoelstra, who will indeed have to find solutions to respond to the power and to the offensive variety of the Nuggets by the second meeting scheduled for Sunday, still in Denver.