Miami fans showed up to FTX Arena tonight in hopes of seeing a clash between their beloved Heat and new sworn enemy, Nikola Jokic. Instead, they got an up close dose of Jokic picking up right where he left off before injuring his wrist: dismantling Miami in every way possible.
Not only did the Heat not touch him in any sort of revengeful way; the Heat couldn’t do anything to slow Jokic down in a basketball sense either. Jokic picked them apart to the tune of 24 points, 15 rebounds and 7 assists in Denver’s 120-111 victory on Monday night in a game that wasn’t nearly as close as the final score indicated.
The Nuggets as a whole looked like a team rejuvenated to have their star player back. Every starter scored in double figures, including 20 from Aaron Gordon who continues to look like the perfect piece in the frontcourt next to the Joker.
Jokic had a cool 9 points and 7 rebounds alone in his first quarter stint as the Nuggets built an early lead and never really looked back, even leading by 20 at the half. Bones Hyland also returned from his ankle injury and was electric, hitting multiple deep threes to give the Nuggets a much needed boost in bench play. Bones had a bench-high 19 points and was 5-for-8 from deep overall.
The Nuggets did receive a bit of help from Jimmy Butler and Tyler Herro not playing (note: they still destroyed the Heat with these two in the lineup earlier this month). Bam Adebayo had a strong offensive showing for Miami with 24 points, 13 rebounds and 6 assists of his own. Kyle Lowry chipped in 17, and Max Strus had 19 off the bench for Miami.
With this win, the Nuggets are now at .500 again and have reason to lift their heads up, which after the earlier news about Michael Porter Jr. is crucial.
Denver next plays on Wednesday in Orlando, a homecoming for Aaron Gordon and a reunion with Gary Harris and RJ Hampton.