In Game 1, the Nuggets almost seemed to be toying with the Heat
Jun 2, 2023, 6:54 AM
(Photo by Jack Dempsey - Pool/Getty Images)
Aaron Gordon had a smile on his face after Game 1 of the NBA Finals. His Nuggets easily disposed of the Miami Heat, winning 104-93.
“Yeah, it’s just an exciting brand of basketball,” grinned AG. “It’s a lot of fun out there, just to be battling with my guys. Yeah, winning is always fun, too.”
I asked Gordon if it was even more fun than he expected.
“No, I think I was pretty prepared,” said Gordon. “I was really excited, but it was very fun out there.”
Wait a second. What happened to this series being the most-serious, challenging, brutally contested event in the lives of all the players and coaches, as Michael Malone had laid out over the past couple of days?
What happened to Nikola Jokic stating that there are no favorites in the NBA Finals?
You shouldn’t be having fun on this stage! This should be a grueling, exhaust-fest, defined by heart-wrenching moments and pure blood-and-guts angst.
But, Gordon couldn’t help himself. Dropping dunk after first-quarter dunk will raise your spirits considerably.
Jamal Murray also was upsetting the apple cart, explaining to the bewildered media how Mile High hoops actually works.
“I think tonight was just a great example of it could be anybody’s night and anybody’s quarter,” said Murray “That’s just Nuggets basketball.”
Murray had a double-double, with 26 points and 10 assists. Michael Porter Jr. had a double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds. Along with Nikola Jokic’s triple-double, they became the first trio to set that mark since 1986 when Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish did the same. All three of those legends are in the Hall of Fame. What’s to stop the Nuggets three best players from doing the same?
The late-arriving-to-the-scene national media seemed to be perplexed. What is this Nuggets basketball you speak of?
They couldn’t understand Jokic being non-plussed about barely taking any shots for a large chunk of the game, only to end up the leading scorer for the Nuggets. His triple-double matched Jason Kidd’s as the only two players to debut in the Finals with that stat.
“I think people are making it something bigger than it is,” said Jokic about the absurd hype surrounding the Series. “When the game started, I felt really comfortable.”
Jokic doesn’t force the action.
He never does.
He literally takes what the defense gives.
So when the Heat, who are wildly overmatched in this series, give the inside game away to Gordon, Jokic simply passes him the ball. Gordon ended up with 12 first-quarter points, all around the rim. Jokic ended up with two points (on free throws) and six assists.
You know… Nuggets basketball.
It’s a bizarre foreign concept to the invading national media, who apparently like drama more than fundamentals. I’m sure they were devastated nobody on the Nuggets bench punched each other. I’m sure it was a snooze-fest that Nuggets Instagram feeds don’t feature Shotgun Willie’s despite the ridiculous proximity. I know it’s must be horrible that the Nuggets haven’t fired any coaches yet.
We all hope the Nuggets dismantling of the Heat was exciting enough for Dan Patrick and his Dannettes. We hope they took a nap earlier in the day so they could actually see who the Nuggets are.
Just to recap – Nuggets basketball is unselfish play that centers around Jokic. It’s powered by Murray and is electrified by the ever-superstar emerging qualities of Michael Porter Jr. It is energized by a collection of Gordon, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Christian Braun and Bruce Brown. The trick is it could easily be any or all of those players flourishing based on what the defense gives them.
The Nuggets led by 21 points going into the fourth, playing very typical Nuggets basketball. In fact, they may have been a bit rusty, as they only shot 29.6% from three.
Brown admitted he was wiped early in the game. Jokic expressed shock MPJ was 2-for-11 from beyond the arc. Michael Malone doing his best Michael Malone impression chastised the team for letting down in the fourth quarter.
While the Heat briefly had the Nuggets lead in single digits in the final quarter, there was no fear that the game would slip away.
It was a lark.
It was pickup hoops in the summer with your friends.
It was easy and most importantly…
It was just flat out fun.
“I think we are playing a really nice brand of basketball,” said Jokic about their style.
But, this is nothing new to those who have followed the team all year. Even the part where they got bored and let down in the fourth is familiar. Everything we thought the Nuggets would do to the Heat happened. It wasn’t wishful thinking or conjecture. It was fact based reality that provided confidence in the best team in the league, which they are, dominating a team that is a cool story, but lacks true substance.
The fairytale is over for the Heat. The carriage has turned into a pumpkin. Rudy just tore his ACL as he was being carried off the field.
The Nuggets beat the Heat with ease. Sorry, Jimmy Buckets, but it wasn’t all that difficult. What exactly will happen on Sunday when the Nuggets aren’t rusty?
There’s plenty of out-of-towners here in Denver to witness something shocking.