Denver Nuggets 105-125 Miami Heat: Three takeaways

by Alex Labidou
Nuggets.com Staff Writer
@LabidouA

The Nuggets opened their NBA restart without three starters, including Jamal Murray, Will Barton III and Gary Harris. The trio was sorely missed as Denver had a second half collapse in a 125-105 defeat to Miami. 
 
Nikola Jokić and Jerami Grant led the home team with 19 points apiece while Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler paced the Heat, both scoring 22. 
 
Here are the takeaways: 
 
Offense stagnant without three starters
 
Aside from Jokić, the Nuggets struggled to create offensive opportunities and it crippled them in the third quarter. Denver held a one-point lead coming out of the break, but Miami, which is seventh in opponent field-goal percentage allowed at 44.7 percent, clamped down defensively to hold its opponent to 41.2 percent shooting. As a result, the Heat went on two game-changing runs, first a 23-8 run then a 13-0 run in that quarter. 
 
The third quarter also illustrated what the Nuggets are missing; Guards who can penetrate. Without Murray, Barton III and Harris, lacked the services of three of their best ballhandlers and slashers to the rim. At times, it appeared as if Denver had to labor for each and every bucket it scored and failed to convert many easy chances. Thankfully for Malone and his staff, the Nuggets have already clinched a playoff berth and have seven seeding games to work back the full roster and rotation. Still, Jokić stressed the need for urgency after a disappointing opener. 

"The time is right now," the center said. "We cannot start thinking about the playoffs, we need to start playing basketball right now. I mean good basketball and how we're supposed to play." 

 
Defense gives up in the second half
 
Denver wrapped up the first half by allowing Miami to shoot just 38.1 percent from the floor in the second quarter. At that stage, it appeared as if the contest would be a tight affair with the Nuggets potentially having a slight edge. It all came crumbling down in the second half. 
 
The Nuggets allowed the Heat to shoot a blistering 66.7 percent in the third quarter, including 57.1 percent from downtown. Miami would explode for 69 points in the second half after scoring 56 in the opening two quarters. 
 
While the team’s struggles on offense can be explained, considering the significant difference in size between both teams, their efforts on defense are inexcusable. 

"We have to learn how to play for 48 minutes," Malone said after the game. "There's no need to panic, with three starters out, but Aug. 17 [the start of the playoffs] is creeping closer and closer." 

 
Nikola sharp from tipoff 
 
Jokić has been largely on top of his game throughout the scrimmages and he carried that level of play into the Nuggets’ restart opener. The Serbian center was the only Denver player in double digits in the opening two quarters, pouring in 14 points and adding in five boards and four dimes in the first half. 
 
Torrey Craig was relentless on both ends of the floor through most of the game. A good example came early in the game, where he emphatically put in the Nuggets’ first field goal on a put-back slam. Craig finished with 10 points, five rebounds, four assists, and a steal.

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