Denver Nuggets 120, Miami Heat 111: Three Takeaways

by Eric Spyropoulos
Staff Writer
@EricSpyroNBA

Good things happen when the reigning MVP is on your squad and back on the floor. Following four-straight missed games, Nikola Jokić returned for the Denver Nuggets and led the Mile High squad to an impressive 120-111 victory over the Miami Heat, a game in which Denver held a double-digit lead throughout the second half. The Nuggets dished out 32 assists in the victory, which marked a new season high.

Led by the reigning MVP, Denver got out to an early lead in the first quarter at 21-17. Jokić scored nine points in the opening seven minutes of the game, using his prowess on the boards to secure second-chance opportunities for the Nuggets. Denver attacked the basket early and often in the first frame, scoring 14 points in the paint on the way to securing a 32-23 advantage after 12 minutes.

As Denver went to a smaller lineup to begin the second quarter, Miami took advantage and built an advantage on the offensive glass which helped cut Denver’s lead down to three within the first three minutes of the quarter. Not to be outdone, Bones Hyland hit three 3-pointers in the second quarter to help push the Nuggets lead up to 12 at the midway point of the frame. Hyland ultimately finished the first half with 13 points as Denver took a 63-43 lead into the halftime break.

The Nuggets maintained a 20-point lead throughout the opening portion of the third quarter as hot 3-point shooting continued to fuel Denver’s offense. Denver knocked down eight 3-pointers in the quarter alone, which helped fight off Miami’s initial comeback attempt. Ultimately, the Heat slightly reduced Denver’s lead to 17 (95-78) heading into the fourth quarter.

As Miami went to more of a full-court press to open the fourth quarter, Denver’s lead was cut down to 13 early in the frame. The Nuggets continued to bust Miami’s zone defense with hot 3-point shooting, which helped maintain a double-digit lead. The Nuggets rebuilt the lead up to 21 late in the quarter and closed out the impressive road win.

Here are three takeaways from Monday’s win.

The MVP didn’t miss a beat

Believe it or not, a team is much better with their best player in action.

For the Nuggets, the return of the reigning MVP couldn’t have come at a better time as they began a seven-game road trip against an Eastern Conference playoff contender. After dropping 17 points and nine rebounds in the first half, Jokić finished with 24 points, 15 rebounds, and seven assists on 9-of-14 shooting from the field.

Denver’s offense regained its flow with the Serbian big man leading the way, using effective ball movement to find the open shooters. Of course, Jokić’s ability on the boards also helped the Nuggets finish defensive possessions with a rebound.

Hyland’s return boosted the second unit

Denver’s second unit has had to adjust to different rotations throughout the season as a result of the various absences up and down the lineup.

However, the bench group found a rhythm early Monday night, as the return of Hyland injected some much-needed scoring and 3-point shooting to the unit. Hyland dropped 13 in the first half and ultimately finished with a new career-high of 19 on the night, while Facundo Campazzo chipped in with 10 points and five assists in his 24 minutes of action.

Hot 3-point shooting fueled Denver’s offense

Miami’s defense has been vulnerable to 3-point attempts throughout the season, and on Monday night the Nuggets were able to take advantage.

After struggling to hit consistently from deep throughout the first 19 games of the season, Denver broke out in a major way in Miami, knocking down 18 3-pointers on 35 attempts, good for 51.4 percent.

With Jokić back in the lineup, Denver’s ball movement was on point, while Hyland’s ability to get hot from downtown was on full display in the win over Miami.

Denver is back in action on Wednesday against the Orlando Magic (5 p.m. MT).

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