What a recital of the double MVP… Without forcing anything, Nikola Jokic offered himself a new triple-double for his big debut in the finals, a first since Jason Kidd with the Nets in 2002. 27 points at 8/12 on shots, 10 rebounds and 14 assists to his credit. Domination all in control. By the end of the first quarter, he had only taken one shot! And for good reason, the Nuggets have long recited their basketball, with the Serbian giant in the role of the control tower. When it came to finishing the job, with the Heat down to 10 points in the final quarter, the "Joker" was no kidding: he took responsibility and got the baskets needed to guide his own to victory (104-93). A boss match, simply put.
If Jokic did not have to force in terms of scoring, it is in particular because Jamal Murray was on fire. The Denver guard scored 18 of his 26 points in the first period Thursday in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. In the end, he tightened the game with his Serbian comrade, assuming his role as leader. 10 assists and 6 rebounds for him.
Without Bam Adebayo, the Heat would have sunk well before the last quarter… The pivot of Miami finished with 26 points at 13/25 shooting Thursday, in Colorado, with 13 rebounds as a bonus. Defensively, he was the only one who could match the size and muscle of the Nuggets, with Aaron Gordon leading the way. But it would have taken so much more in Miami… In any case, the 25-year-old pivot was expected at the turn before this duel with Jokic. He generally responded.
We mentioned Jokic and Murray, that's normal, but it was above all the Denver team that shone during the first three quarters. In attack, Mike Malone's players played fair on half-court, with efficiency in transition, all with address, vista, physicality. Defensively, they have also found a way to significantly annoy a Miami team that has long remained without a solution. And there was this "loosening" of the fourth quarter, as the "Joker" regretted (see below). But before that, the basketball offered by the Nuggets was simply magnificent. “Everyone was involved and did their job,” sums up Michael Malone, insisting on “the collective effort”. Let's mention Aaron Gordon's big start to the match (16 pts), Michael Porter Jr's double-double (14 pts, 13 rbs) or Bruce Brown's contribution off the bench (10 pts). The eight players used on Thursday brought. And to think that boys like Reggie Jackson or DeAndre Jordan didn't play...
The good news ? Max Strus and Caleb Martin couldn't do worse on Sunday, in Game 2 of the series. The first committed an infamous 0/10 on shots, including 0/9 at long distance. Author of a magnificent Game 7 against the Celtics, with 26 points, the second converted only one of his seven attempts. Too few. In the end, Miami finished with a small 8/27 from three points. Fortunately for the Heat, Gabe Vincent (19 pts), Haywood Highsmith (18 pts) and Kyle Lowry (11 pts) put their noses in the window in terms of address. The latter notably brought the spark in the last quarter, with his two consecutive three-point shots. Note that Tyler Herro could possibly return for Game 2. It will not be luxury, even if the person concerned has not played since mid-April. X factor?
We expected Jimmy Butler as a pack leader, as a warrior, as an aggressor. We haven't seen it. The Eastern Finals MVP was not aggressive enough in Game 1, finishing with 13 small points and 14 shots attempted (6/14). Above all, the former Bulls player did not provoke a single free throw! In fact, Miami only fired two in this game, unlikely (see elsewhere). Still, Butler will have to show the muscles and the fangs on Thursday, during the second round. “We must attack the circle much more, including me,” admitted the person concerned at a press conference. Very just.
A record for Miami. In the history of the NBA play-offs, not just the Finals, we had never seen a team finish with two free throws attempted. Never ! The Heat did. Some players raged after the referees. They should also look in a mirror and see the obvious: Erik Spoelstra's team just watched Denver play until the last quarter, taking too many mid-range shots, too many threes , forgetting to attack the circle and attack the Nuggets, in an armchair. Miami will have to be much more aggressive on Thursday, in Game 2. Note that the Nuggets finished at 16/20 from the penalty line. A sacred delta between the two teams… It was Haywood Highsmith who attempted (and returned) the only two throws of this overly timid Heat.