DENVER — That was decisive.
And, just maybe, a bit deceptive.
In the opening game of the NBA Finals, the Denver Nuggets’ 104-93 win rarely felt that close. It was, aside from a too-late push by the MIami Heat, a stark set of performances. Dominating for Denver. Ugly for the Heat.
There was Nikola Jokic dictating the tone and tenor of the game while taking just 12 shots. His 27-14-10 night just scratched the surface of how effortlessly he seemed to control the game.
There was Jamal Murray with 26 points, an offensive catalyst who also helped Denver, time and again, attack the rim, get to the free throw line, and find easy points.
Speaking of which: There was Miami with just two — two! — free throws all night, a mark more of timidity than any officiating issues.
There was Max Strus and Caleb Martin, important keys to Miami scrounging up enough offense to compete in this series, combining to go 1 of 17 from the field. Together, they scored three total points — the lone shot, a three, that Martin hit.
That offensive awfulness, by comparison, almost made Jimmy Butler’s 13 points on his 6-of-14 shooting night look downright respectable.
This was an ugly game for Miami, and a beautiful one for Denver, and a stark reminder of what we all knew before tipoff: This Denver Nuggets team is a much higher mountain the Heat are trying to climb than the past obstacles that brought them here.
There were signs, scarce but at the back of the mind, struggling to remind us that this series is far from over.
“This is a great challenge,” Spoelstra said. “It’s going to require more. We will get to work and see what we can do better, what we can do harder, what we can do with more effort, what we can do with more focus.”
Take the start of Miami’s fourth quarter, when they cut a 21-point lead to 10 with nine minutes left, and flirted with that range for a good part of the fourth quarter. That they eventually ran out of gas, and time, tracks.
This game was at altitude, even if Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra was ready to play it on…
Source link : https://www.cbssports.com/nba/news/heat-vs-nuggets-miami-comes-out-flat-in-nba-finals-opener-but-there-are-reasons-hope-should-not-be-lost/
Author : Bill Reiter
Publish date : 2023-06-02 04:44:36
Copyright for syndicated content belongs to the linked Source.