The Miami Heat find themselves in unfamiliar territory after a series opener in the playoffs, while the Denver Nuggets are all too comfortable with where they stand.
The Heat aim to level the NBA Finals against the Nuggets on Sunday when the teams reconvene in Denver for Game 2.
Miami enteredthe playoffs as the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference, thereby starting each series on the road. The Heat, however, set the tone for each previous series by recording a 13-point win over the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks and seven-point victories in each of the next two series openers.
Miami has lost four of its last five games overall and is facing a deficit for the first time in these playoffs. That's foreign territory for the Heat, although now a reality after they dropped a 104-93 decision on Thursday in Game 1 of the best-of-seven series.
"That was one of my last messages to the group before our game," Denver coach Michael Malone said after his team improved to 9-0 at home in the playoffs.
"I reminded our group, if they didn't know, that Miami went into Milwaukee (in the first round) and won Game 1. They went into the Garden in New York City (in the second round) and won Game 1. They won Game 1 up in Boston (in the Eastern Conference finals). So, we did not want them coming in here taking control of the series on our court."
Credit Nikola Jokic for making certain that didn't happen. Jokic recorded his ninth triple-double of the playoffs -- and sixth in his last seven games -- after collecting 27 points, 14 assists and 10 rebounds in Game 1.
"The most important thing is to win a game," Jokic said. "I'm trying to win a game in any possible way."
Jamal Murray added 26 points and 10 assists for the Nuggets, who shot a blistering 50.6 percent from the floor (40 of 79). Denver also made 16 of its 20 free-throw attempts, which was significantly better than Miami's all-too-brief performance at the line.
The Heat went to the charity stripe on just two occasions to set an NBA postseason record for fewest free throw attempts in a game.
"Things have to be done with a lot more intention and a lot more pace, a lot more detail," Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said. "We are an aggressive, attacking team, and so if we are not getting those kind of opportunities at the rim or at the free throw line, we have to find different ways to be able to do it."
Bam Adebayo collected 26 points, 13 rebounds and five assists and Jimmy Butler had 13, seven and seven, respectively. Neither player ventured to the foul line, however.
"You've got to attack and attack everybody, not just one individual," Butler said. "I have to do a better job of creating the help, one, two guys, and getting to my shooter, otherwise finishing at the rim, making shots.
"But we missed a lot (Thursday), and we'll be better in Game 2. At the end of the day, that's what it is, and we'll take this and we'll learn from it."
--Field Level Media