The Denver Nuggets had a long rest after sweeping the LA Lakers in the Western Conference Finals, but they certainly didn’t look like they had any rust in Game 1 of the 2023 NBA Finals. Their well-oiled offense was on display from the get-go, where they took a 29-20 lead after the first quarter and never looked back in the 104-93 victory.
They shot terribly from three in that opening period (1 of 6), but made 13 of 22 overall from the field. Their size was a problem from the start and it all started with Nikola Jokic. The Serbian big man had six assists in the first quarter, and he didn’t even take his first field goal attempt until there were only 3.3 seconds left in the period, but it was clear that he was the focal point of the offense and he made the Miami Heat pay. He ended the game with another triple-double of 27 points, 10 rebounds, 14 assists, a steal and a block.
Jokic opened up the floor for Aaron Gordon’s strong start, which saw him score 12 points in the first quarter while shooting 6 of 8 from the field. That early offensive contribution then opened up the floor in the second quarter for Michael Porter Jr., who finished the first half with 10 points and seven rebounds.
Gordon and Porter Jr.’s strong starts then allowed their best scorer, Jamal Murray, to operate in his comfort zone. Murray was a flamethrower again, starting with eight first quarter points and 18 by the end of the first half. He slowed down on his scoring in the second half, as he finished with 26 points on 11 of 22 shooting by the end of the game. However, he also had six rebounds and 10 assists as his secondary playmaking next to Jokic carved up the Heat’s defense in the second half. Murray’s redemption arc continues to improve the deeper the playoffs go, which is a good thing to see now that he’s on the biggest stage in basketball.
The Jokic and Murray combo was just unreal. Their combined scoring and playmaking was basketball genius in its highest form, especially with how unselfish both were.
The Heat did show signs of life in the fourth quarter, using an 11-0 run in the fourth quarter to cut the deficit from 21 points to a more manageable 10 with under 10 minutes left in the game. They didn’t quit, and cut the deficit to single digits with a little over two minutes left in the game, but the Nuggets found an answer every time the Heat tried to get back into it.
At this point, it’s no longer hyperbole to say that Jokic and Murray are currently the NBA’s best duo. They’ve set the tone for the rest of the NBA Finals in Game 1 and their teammates certainly followed their lead. Here’s how key contributors from the supporting cast finished the game:
- Aaron Gordon: 16 points and six rebounds
- Michael Porter Jr.: 14 points and 13 rebounds
- Bruce Brown: 10 points, five rebounds, two assists
Bam Adebayo will be disappointed with the loss as he finally found his groove on offense after struggling in the Eastern Conference Finals. He finished the game with 26 points, 13 rebounds and five assists while making 13 of 25 shots. Jimmy Butler had a quiet game with 13 points, seven rebounds, seven assists, a steal and a block.
Denver will also be encouraged by how they won Game 1 while shooting 8 of 27 from beyond the arc compared to the Heat’s 13 of 39. They finished the game shooting 40 of 78 overall and 16 of 20 from the free throw line.