Nikola Jokic has triple-double, Jamal Murray scores 26 in Nuggets' Game 1 win

June 2, 2023, 6:39 AM

DENVER -- Hours before Thursday's Game 1, head coach Michael Malone gave the Denver Nuggets a pop quiz at the team's morning shootaround.

Malone wanted to make sure his team, coming off a nine-day break, was locked in and ready. With Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray leading the way, the Nuggets passed their first NBA Finals test, taking the opening game from the Miami Heat  104-93 before a sold-out crowd that had been waiting for this moment at Ball Arena.

Despite taking just five shots through the first three quarters, Jokic continued his unstoppable triple-double tear through this postseason. He joined Jason Kidd as the only players to make their NBA Finals debut with a triple-double, finishing with 27 points, 14 assists and 10 rebounds.

Jokic's assist total was the most by a player in his first Finals game, and he collected his seventh triple-double in his past nine playoff games while continuing to average a triple-double this postseason.

"That's the beauty of Nikola," Malone said of Jokic not looking to score aggressively to start the game. "I learned a long time ago, the defense tells you what to do, and Nikola never forces it. If they're going to give him that kind of attention, he had 10 assists at halftime. Well, he's going to just pick you apart."

The Nuggets, who remain undefeated at home this postseason, feel that they can beat any defense in a multitude of ways. Take away Jokic's offense and the two-time MVP will find his teammates for open shots. Try to double-team Murray and the point guard can control the game with his passing.

Murray, also making his Finals debut, had 26 points, 10 assists and 6 rebounds in 44 minutes. He did much of his scoring in the first half, with 18 points by halftime.

Aaron Gordon, who has sacrificed much of his offense since joining Denver in a trade during the 2020-21 season from Orlando, set a physical tone for the Nuggets, taking advantage of mismatches on smaller defenders and backing them in with old-school bully ball. He made six of his first eight shots and scored 12 points in the first quarter.

Denver led 84-60 toward the end of the third quarter. When Miami cut it to 10 with 4:16 remaining, Jokic scored on an eight-foot floater and an eight-foot turnaround fadeaway shot.

When the Heat made another run to get within nine with 2:34 left, Jokic found Kentavious Caldwell-Pope for a 15-foot jumper. Jokic would score four more points to hand the Heat their first Game 1 loss this postseason.

"Have we lost one?" Murray replied when asked if the Nuggets were worried about the Heat having not lost a Game 1.

When told the Nuggets haven't lost a Game 1 in any round this postseason, Murray replied, "I think we're doing a good job."

The Murray-Jokic combo continues to thrive and find ways to get the job done against opposing defenses. The Nuggets' stars are the third pair of teammates to each have 20 points and 10 assists in a Finals game, joining the Chicago Bulls' Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen and the Los Angeles Lakers' Magic Johnson and James Worthy, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

"We just want to win a championship," Murray said. "I think it's just fluent, beautiful basketball. The ball is hopping, and we're just playing off each other. You can have a great game with only five shots until the fourth.

"Just making reads on the basketball court. I think that's the beauty of what this team is. We have so many different weapons and so many different looks. You've got to guard everybody. Jokic dominated until the fourth quarter, and it didn't even feel like it. Yeah, it's free flowing, and it's a lot of fun."

Jokic was asked afterward what he thought of the quiz Malone gave the team in the morning shootaround.

"He didn't ask me nothing," Jokic said. "So I don't know."

It's safe to say the Nuggets had all the answers in Game 1.

"I think we did a good job," Jokic said.