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The top-seeded Denver Nuggets cruised past the Miami Heat 104-93 to take Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Thursday night at Denver’s Ball Arena.
After clinching the first NBA Finals berth in franchise history with a sweep of the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Finals on May 22, Denver showed no signs of rust in Thursday’s Game 1, jumping out to a 17-point lead in the first half with four of the Nuggets’ five starters finishing with double digits in points.
Denver continued building on the lead to start the second half, leading by as many as 24 points in the third quarter.
Two-time MVP Nikola Jokic tallied his ninth triple-double to extend his record for most in a single postseason in NBA history. He finished with 27 points, 14 assists and 10 rebounds in the victory.
Jokic’s 14 assists are the most by a center in Finals history. Nuggets guard Jamal Murray added 26 points and 10 assists as the team captured its first win in an NBA Finals in the franchise’s 47 years in the league.
“We respect that team a lot. They fight. They never quit,” Jokic said after the game. “We just wanted to get the first punch. You know the first three rounds, (the Heat) won the first game when they traveled … and we didn’t want that to happen, and I think we did a good job.”
The Heat, seeking to become the NBA’s first No. 8 seed to win a championship since the 16-team playoff format began 39 years ago, struggled with their shots in the opening two quarters, going 18-of-48 from the field. Postseason stars Caleb Martin and Max Strus were a combined 0-for-12 in the first half.
In the fourth quarter, Miami got off to a hot start, breaking off on an 11-0 run to cut the deficit to 10 points. Despite trailing by single digits later in the fourth, the Heat’s comeback bid fell short.
Heat center Bam Adebayo scored a team-high 26 points, while Eastern Conference Finals MVP Jimmy Butler managed only 13 points on 6-of-14 shooting from the field.
Game 2 is on Sunday in Denver.