The Miami Heat have been on a tear since mid-April, pulling off upset after upset over the first three rounds of the postseason.

However, it has become evident that they will have to find another gear to compete with the Denver Nuggets in the NBA Finals.

Miami fell to Denver, 104-93, in a Game 1 that was not as close as the final score suggests. This marked the first time that the Heat lost a Game 1 in this postseason as they impressively won the series opener, all of which were on the road, in each of the past three rounds.

The Nuggets led by as much as 24 points in the third quarter and Miami only held the lead in the contest for a grand total of 34 seconds which happened in the opening period. The most eye-popping statistic from Game 1 was the free throw disparity. Denver attempted 20 free throws as compared to the Heat’s meager two attempts which were taken by reserve Haywood Highsmith.

The lack of free throw attempts by Miami had nothing to do with the referees though as they seemed content to settle for jumpshots all throughout Game 1. The Heat will have to be more aggressive in attacking the paint to put pressure on the Nuggets’ interior defense which, in turn, will generate more free throw attempts for them.

If they are to make this change, it all starts with Jimmy Butler.

The 33-year-old superstar is averaging 8.6 free throw attempts per game this postseason and Miami needs him to reach this number, and quite possibly take even more, just to give them a chance to win. Butler had zero free throw attempts in Game 1 and finished with only 13 points on 14 field goal attempts, albeit he did have seven rebounds, seven assists, a steal, a block, and only one turnover.

Further complicating matters for Butler is the one hulking obstacle in his way: Denver’s starting power forward Aaron Gordon. The 6’8, 235 pound veteran had his way with the Heat’s frontline all night long and did an excellent job in covering the Heat’s leading scorer on the other end of the floor.

For a player like Butler who uses his physicality to get his way on the court, matching up against a much stronger player in Gordon poses a challenge. The six-time NBA All-Star will have to find more crafty ways to maneuver past the Nuggets’ defense in order to get to his spots in this series.

While Butler and his fellow starters Caleb Martin and Max Strus struggled to find their rhythm in Game 1, the play of their two-time NBA All-Star teammate Bam Adebayo was quite encouraging. Matched up versus Denver’s two-time NBA Most Valuable Player Nikola Jokic, Adebayo put up his best game of the postseason so far with 26 points on 13-of-25 field goal shooting, 13 rebounds, and five assists.

Gabe Vincent and Highsmith stepped up as well, scoring 19 and 18 points, respectively. These two players helped fuel Miami’s fourth quarter run that brought them within nine points of Denver, but their rally ultimately lost steam before the final buzzer.

Regardless of how well the rest of the Heat play though, these last few months of postseason basketball have shown that they cannot get over the hump without Butler leading the charge. He remains the lifeblood of this team and Miami needs him to be the snarling and confident version of himself to keep up with these Nuggets.

Butler has a rare second chance to win the NBA Finals and he will need to be the greatest version of himself come Game 2 if the Heat are to avoid falling into an unfamiliar 2-0 hole that they have yet to experience in these playoffs.