Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo Power Heat to Win over Shorthanded Nuggets

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistAugust 1, 2020

Denver Nuggets' Monte Morris tangles for the ball against Miami Heat's Jimmy Butler during an NBA basketball game, Saturday, Aug. 1, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Kevin C. Cox/Pool Photo via AP)
Kevin C. Cox/Associated Press

The Miami Heat beat the shorthanded Denver Nuggets 125-105 at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Kissimmee, Florida, on Saturday.

Denver, which was without three starters, held a one-point lead at halftime, but the Heat took over the game with a 38-22 scoring advantage in the third quarter, thanks largely to the play of the All-Star tandem of Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo.

The game was the first for both teams since the resumption of the 2019-20 NBA regular season inside the NBA bubble.

Miami improved to 42-24 with the win and maintained the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference, while Denver fell to 43-23 and remained in third in the West.


Notable Stats

Jimmy Butler, G, MIA: 6/11 FG, 22 PTS, 7 AST, 4 REB, 3 STL

Bam Adebayo, C, MIA: 7/12 FG, 22 PTS, 9 REB, 6 AST

Kelly Olynyk, C, MIA: 8/11 FG, 20 PTS, 5 REB, 3 AST

Nikola Jokic, C, DEN: 7/16 FG, 19 PTS, 7 REB, 6 AST

Jerami Grant, F, DEN: 7/14 FG, 19 PTS, 2 REB


Butler Dominates as Heat's Go-To Guy

Despite the fact that Saturday marked the first time he was playing in a game that counted in more than four months, Butler didn't miss a step.

He tied for the team lead with 22 points and contributed in essentially all areas. Butler stood out as a ball distributor as well, putting his teammates in positions to succeed and recording a team-high seven assists.

Butler didn't attempt a single shot from beyond the arc and did the bulk of his damage at the rim and at the free-throw line.

He threw down an emphatic dunk early in the third quarter while the Heat were trailing, and it seemed to energize the team:

x - Miami HEAT @MiamiHEAT

#22 has been a different breed at the rim today 😤 https://t.co/Gx8Vl4aeVY

Butler then put an exclamation point on the quarter with a buzzer-beating layup:

x - Miami HEAT @MiamiHEAT

🚨BUZZER BEATER ALERT🚨 #22 straight dominating today https://t.co/clnlmwZL7N

Even when Butler wasn't making buckets on the floor, he was doing damage at the charity stripe by making 10 of his 11 attempts.

Keith Smith of Yahoo Sports felt the Heat appeared to be in midseason form with how well they moved the ball and worked together Saturday:

Keith Smith @KeithSmithNBA

The hoops Jimmy Butler bought his teammates might be part of the good shooting, but that doesn't explain the incredible ball and player movement. These guys look like they played a real game two days ago.

Butler was at the center of it all and showed why he and the Heat could be a major threat in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

If Miami continues to be as efficient offensively as it was Saturday (55.6 percent from the field), it will be a tough out.


Absence of Top Guards Costs Nuggets

The Nuggets were outclassed by the Heat during the second half of Saturday's game, and the absence of three key starters likely had plenty to do with it.

The entire starting backcourt of Jamal Murray, Gary Harris and Will Barton was out Saturday, which forced Monte Morris and Torrey Craig to play the bulk of the minutes at guard.

It didn't matter much in the first half since the Nuggets' size advantage helped them build a lead, but the Denver backcourt couldn't handle the pressure applied by Miami's strong defense in the second half.

The Heat forced turnovers regularly in the third and fourth quarters by drawing charges and simply taking the basketball away:

x - Miami HEAT @MiamiHEAT

You love to see it 😍 #HEATCulture https://t.co/U4xMBaJX90


Jimmy 💪, Bam 👀, Kendrick 🪣! 📺: ESPN https://t.co/j9unKwYBJh

Overall, the Nuggets turned the ball over 19 times to Miami's 15. Denver also shot just 42.9 percent from the field and 22.9 percent from three, which was likely a direct result of the absences of Murray, Harris and Barton.

The Nuggets are still a dangerous team at full strength and could still be a factor in the Western Conference if they get healthy by playoff time.

As would be the case with essentially any team in the league, though, the Nuggets couldn't overcome being without three of their five best players.


What's Next?

The Heat will have a tough challenge on their hands in their next game when they face the reigning NBA champion Toronto Raptors on Monday.

Meanwhile, the Nuggets will look to bounce back Monday against the Oklahoma City Thunder.