Nuggets Take NBA Finals Lead

Denver Nuggets | Image by Denver Nuggets/Twitter

The Denver Nuggets took Game 1 of the 2023 NBA Finals with a 104-93 win over the Miami Heat in Denver.

On Thursday night, Denver had a lead of up to 24 points as the Heat struggled to stop the Nuggets’ ball movement and make shots on the offensive end.

While Miami held Nikola Jokic in check during the first half, Aaron Gordon stepped up with 10 of his 16 points in the first quarter, and Jokic exploded in the second half to notch another triple-double.

“I felt Aaron really set the tone on both ends of the floor for us,” Nuggets Coach Michael Malone said during a postgame press conference. “He’s done that all year long…If they’re going to take away Nikola, then [you have to] find a way to get somebody else open and let them get off, and Aaron obviously benefited from that.”

Miami cut the lead to 10 with an 11-0 run behind Gabe Vincent, Haywood Highsmith, and Kyle Lowry to open the fourth quarter, but Denver answered with a Jeff Green three to end the run. Yet, the game was far from over.

In the final 3:07, Highsmith scored eight points and helped trim the lead single-digits with 2:34 remaining. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope’s three-pointer pushed the lead back to double figures as Denver finished the Game 1 victory and remained unbeaten at home this postseason.

“It feels good, but we know we have to be better,” Green told the media after the game. “We allowed them back in the game. I think we played the score and not the game, so we’ve got to get that discipline back.”

“We can’t just let our guard down,” he continued. “I think we just allowed them to be more physical, allowed them to play the passing lanes and get more steals, and that gave them comfort…That’s not what we want to give them, especially in a game like that.”

The Nuggets held Miami’s leading scorer Jimmy Butler to 13 points. Bam Adebayo led the Heat with 26 while Vincent added 19, and Highsmith tied a career-high with 18 off the bench.

“He’s comfortable and confident,” Butler said of Highsmith after the game. “He shoots the ball very well. He cuts to the rim. He guards. He does anything and everything you ask him to do. Tonight, he spaced the floor incredibly well, he had some timely cuts, some hustle plays, and that’s what made his mark in this league for him, and he’s continuing to do it in the Finals.”

Jokic led Denver with 27 points, 14 assists, and 10 rebounds, while Jamal Murray added 26 points and 10 assists.

Game 2 of the 2023 NBA Finals will be played in Denver at 7 p.m. CT on Sunday.

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