Denver – Golden tension in Ball Arena for Game 1 of the NBA Finals, after the club’s 104-93 demolition of the Miami Heat, made four Denver Nuggets shine as the top prospects competing for the Bill Russell Trophy.
Two-time Kia MVP Nikola Jokic and his teammates Jamal Murray, Aaron Gordon and Michael Porter Jr. scored 52 of the Nuggets’ 59 first-half points on Thursday, sparking a 17-point lead. Below while looking for answers. After going on a 10-3 run in the third quarter, Denver went up by 21 in the fourth quarter, and its fiery four burned Miami, outscoring the Heat 67-63, and Denver took an 84-63 lead.
Unsurprisingly, Jokic posted another triple-double in his final game, finishing with a game-high 27 points and 10 rebounds and 14 assists. Murray had 26 points and 10 rebounds as the point guard and center became the first duo since Magic Johnson and James Worthy each had 25-plus points and 10-plus assists in an NBA Finals game.
Gordon, meanwhile, chipped in with 16 points on lockdown defense. Porter posted a 14-point double-double that included a playoff career-high 13 rebounds.
“It’s everybody stepping up and doing their job,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said, “but we all know we can be better on Sunday. [in Game 2].”
Miami star Jimmy Butler, after a rough night, had his lowest scoring output of the season (13 points) and finished a team-worst minus-17. The Heat are 1-4 in the 2023 playoffs when an opponent holds them to fewer than 20 points.
So please excuse the Nuggets-heavy nature of this latest edition of our 2023 Race to the NBA Finals MVP ladder.
Now, the top 5 after ladder 1 in our 2023 NBA Finals MVP race:
1. Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets
Game 1 Stats: 27 points, 10 rebounds, 14 assists
The third player since Wilt Chamberlain (1967) and Magic Johnson (1982) to average a triple-double in the playoffs entering the NBA Finals, Jokic recorded his ninth triple-double and seventh. in NBA history for a single postseason. The numbers are quite mind-boggling when you consider the nine he produced of the league 12 triple-doubles in this 2023 postseason. Jokic’s 14 assists are the most by a center in an NBA Finals game. „He’s great at times,” Butler said of Jokic, who certainly felt the love in Ball Arena after joining Jason Kidd (2002) as the only players to pull off a triple-double in their Finals.
2. Jamal Murray, Denver Nuggets
Game 1 Stats: 26 points, 6 rebounds, 10 assists
Everyone knows he’s dangerous, having scored 30 or more points in seven games this postseason, two fewer than Boston’s Jayson Tatum. Murray took an aggressive approach in this one, going 8-of-12 from the field and 2-of-3 from deep to score a team-best 18 points in the first half. Murray has now scored 25 points or more in 11 of his 16 games in the 2023 playoffs. „We study the game,” Murray said. „If they take the pocket, we look somewhere else. If they take me, we look somewhere else. We try to find the open man, find the best shot, find the mismatch. It’s hard to guard everybody instead of one or two guys.
3. Aaron Gordon, Denver Nuggets
Game 1 Stats: 16 points, 6 rebounds, 1 assist
Gordon added a body part early on that Miami didn’t expect. Gordon simply plowed through Heat defenders to set the tone in a bruising first quarter, with the 27-year-old pouring in 12 of his 16 points on 6-for-8 shooting with four rebounds. Perhaps most importantly, Gordon has taken on the responsibility of guarding Butler with the same vigor he has held down everyone else throughout these playoffs. As the primary defender against Kevin Durant and LeBron James this postseason, Gordon surrendered a total of 94 points on 43.2% shooting. Butler finished with 13 points after averaging 20-8-8 during the two previous regular season meetings between the teams.
4. Michael Porter Jr., Denver Nuggets
Game 1 Stats: 14 points, 13 rebounds, 2 blocks
Porter tallied his seventh double-double of the postseason. Defensively, his 7-foot wingspan proved to be a constant problem for the Heat, which at times hesitated to take open, makeable shots. Porter called Game 1 an opportunity to work through „some healthy nerves for the whole team,” but stressed the importance of Denver stepping up to Game 2. „We know how good we are here,” he said. “It’s big for us to get off to a good start in the series. We’ve been able to do that in every series so far. So, we’re looking to continue that.
5. Bam Adebayo, Miami Heat
Game 1 Stats: 26 points, 13 rebounds, 5 assists
One of the few bright spots for the Heat (along with reserve Haywood Highsmith), Adebayo scored 16 of his 26 in the first half, making it his 17th career playoff game with 20 or more points and 10 or more rebounds. Only James (25) has more games in Heat history. When Adebayo scored his 14th point, he joined Butler, James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to become the fifth player in Miami franchise history to reach 1,000 playoff points. Notably, Adebayo had just 23 points on 8-for-26 shooting in his last two playoff games and had 10 turnovers in his last three playoff games. So, despite the loss, Adebayo’s solid night bodes well for the Heat if they can keep it up.
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Michael C. Wright is a senior writer for NBA.com. You can email him HereFind his archive Here And follow him Twitter.
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