DENVER — Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets were facing some questions going into their first NBA Finals, and their answers came in resounding fashion.
No, a week and a half off didn’t hurt them.
And no, the NBA’s biggest stage isn’t too big, either.
Jokic got a triple-double in his finals debut, Jamal Murray scored 26 points and the Nuggets had little trouble with the cold-shooting Miami Heat on the way to a 104-93 win in Game 1 on Thursday night.
The two-time NBA MVP finished with 27 points, 14 assists and 10 rebounds for the Nuggets, who waited 47 years to make the finals and didn’t disappoint.
“The most important thing is to win a game,” Jokic said after his ninth triple-double of this year’s playoffs — his sixth in his last seven games. “I’m trying to win a game in any possible way.”
Aaron Gordon added 16 points and Michael Porter Jr. scored 14 for Denver, which trailed for all of 34 seconds and eventually led by as many as 24.
Bam Adebayo finished with 26 points and 13 rebounds for Miami, which shot 41% for the game — 33% from 3-point range. Gabe Vincent scored 19, Haywood Highsmith had 18 and Jimmy Butler added 13 for the Heat.
Game 2 is in Denver on Sunday night.
Miami opened the fourth quarter on an 11-0 run, cutting an 84-63 deficit to start the final period down to 84-74. The Heat actually got within nine on a 3-pointer by Highsmith with 2:34 left, but no closer and there wasn’t any doubt, either.
Nuggets coach Michael Malone gave his team a pop quiz in shootaround Thursday morning, peppering them with questions about the game plan and what had to be done in the most important game to date in franchise history.
They had all the answers then. Had them all at game time, too. They were the team with minimal NBA Finals experience, only two players having been to the title round before, and yet they looked right at home before the home crowd in Game 1.
Jokic became the second player in the last 25 years — LeBron James was the other, in 2017 — to have 10 assists by halftime of a finals game. He had 10 points and 10 assists by the break, and Denver was up 59-42 after the first two quarters.
That wasn’t good for Miami. Nor was this: The Nuggets were in full control and Jokic had taken only three shots.
“I don’t need to shoot and I know I don’t need to score to affect the game,” Jokic said.
And this part was worse for Miami: The Heat just couldn’t shoot. At all. Or at least, not until Denver was too far ahead to catch. Max Strus was 0 for 10 through three quarters, 0 for 9 on 3-pointers. Caleb Martin — who narrowly missed out on winning the MVP award of the Eastern Conference finals — was 1 for 7.