Nikola Jokic boosts Nuggets in first NBA Finals appearance

In the Nuggets' 104-93 win over Miami in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, Nikola Jokic did something only one other player in NBA history has done.
Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic, gestures to fans after the team's 104-93 victory over the Miami Heat.
Posted at 7:50 AM, Jun 02, 2023

Denver Nuggets star Nikola Jokic showed why he is one of the best in the NBA on Thursday as his squad easily defeated the Miami Heat 104-93 in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. 

For Jokic and the Nuggets, it was their first appearance in the NBA Finals. 

Jokic had a game-high 27 points and 14 assists to go with a team-high of 10 rebounds. Jokic is just the second player ever to notch a triple-double in their NBA Finals debut — Jason Kidd in 2002 with the New Jersey Nets being the other.

Jamal Murray added 26 points in the win. 

The Nuggets used a strong start to cruise to the win. Denver led at halftime 59-42. 

The Nuggets showed no signs of rust after spending 10 days off awaiting the winner of the Celtics versus Heat Eastern Conference Finals. The Heat won that series 4-3 after taking a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven series. 

Miami Heat forward Caleb Martin.

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Nuggets coach Michael Malone said he had no concerns about the team’s long break. 

“Our guys were so locked in going into that Game 1 and I felt since we got back to practice after that Lakers series, our guys have been the same way, man,” he said. “They've been so locked in. Every day in practice, I haven't had to push them, encourage them. They're bringing it. Tonight, obviously was great to see after such a long break, getting off to the start that we did.”

The 10-day wait meant that Jokic, a two-time NBA MVP, could build up the anticipation for Thursday’s game. 

“I couldn't wait to start just because when the game started, it felt abnormal,” he said. “When the game started, I felt really comfortable.”

Jokic was mostly forced to be a distributor in the first half, which was just fine with Malone. Jokic had 10 assists in the first half. 

“One thing about Nikola is he takes great satisfaction in making plays for others. He really does. I think he takes more joy in that,” he said. “I don't think he cares if he scored 27 points or not. He cares that we're up 1-0.”

Despite the result, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra was encouraged by what he saw in the second half and hopes how Miami closed the game can carry over to Game 2. 

“This is a great challenge. 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, etc.,” he said.