For the second night in a row, the Miami Heat enjoyed an encouraging first quarter only for their offense to fall flat — to go along with a porous defense — for the rest of the way. Tonight, Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets were the benefactors with a blowout 123-106 win against the Heat on Wednesday night to drop Miami to 1-2 on their road trip.
Miami lost by 20 to the Phoenix Suns last night, and familiar issues continued to plague their efforts. Jokic simply toyed with Miami’s defense all night long whenever he was aggressive, oftentimes taking advantage of switches to either easily score inside or place a perfect pass to a teammate for an excellent look at the basket.
Sure they missed their injured star Jamal Murray, who was recently lost for the season with a torn ACL, but tonight they had plenty of firepower both among the starters and the bench to make up for his loss. Six players scored in double-figures, highlighted by a particularly impressive performance from Michael Porter Jr. with 25 points on 10-14 shooting as well as 10 rebounds and three blocks. Denver as a team finished with 54% shooting for the night, but for most of the game they were mostly hovering over 60% shooting and they also out-rebounded Miami 43 to 30.
It was obvious that Jimmy Butler wasn’t at full strength after rolling his ankle last night, but he started the game regardless and finished with 13 points on 5-8 shooting with nine assists, three steals and three rebounds in 28 minutes. He wasn’t his usual aggressive self, only scoring his first field goal on a 3-point play well into the second quarter, but he was looking to get his teammates involved and quite frankly it was just a relief to see him out there. Conversely, it was Bam Adebayo who scored 11 points last night but was much more active tonight with 21 points on 7-16 shooting and six rebounds — though he also committed an uncharacteristic six turnovers.
The game was essentially lost in the second and third quarters, in which the Heat gave up 70 points to the Nuggets. Perhaps sensing a long night, coach Erik Spoelstra puzzlingly relieved a red-hot Bam five minutes into the game with rookie Precious Achiuwa and also dusted off Max Strus late in the third quarter as well as KZ Okpala during garbage time. Big man Dewayne Dedmon also made his Heat debut in the fourth quarter, while Nemanja Bjelica did not enter the game.
Tyler Herro struggled from the field, shooting 2-11 and finishing with five points but he wasn’t the only reserve to fail to make much of an impact on the game — which was only magnified by the absence of Goran Dragic who was out of the game due to load management.
Miami drops to seventh place in the Eastern Conference standings with the loss and next face the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday night to close out this road trip.