Today, I listened to my heart. I felt an overwhelming amount of emotion as I stood there during the National Anthem. My brother, and many close friends have sworn to protect this country at all costs, and that means something to me, as does the flag and our nation. pic.twitter.com/eGJrWNIUvk— Meyers Leonard (@MeyersLeonard) August 1, 2020
An early tip-off time certainly didn't impact the Miami Heat against the Denver Nuggets as both teams embarked in their first meaningful game inside the NBA bubble in Orlando. What started out as an evenly matched contest in the first half turned into a blowout midway through the third quarter as the Heat began to get into a groove en route to a 125-105 win.
Prior to the hiatus, Miami was the best 3-point shooting team in the league, knocking down 38.3 percent of 3s a night, and if there were any lingering questions on whether it would have an issue replicating that success in the bubble, today's game certainly answered that question. The Heat knocked down 13 3-pointers and shot 44.8 percent from deep against the Nuggets, as Denver failed to run shooters like Duncan Robinson and Jae Crowder off the line in the second half.
The Nuggets entered this game down three starters, and it certainly had an impact as Nikola Jokic didn't have significant help around him to help win this game. Denver shouldn't be too concerned, though, as the team should be at full strength in time for the playoffs.
Here are the main takeaways from Miami's win.
Heat's depth could help them play spoiler in playoffs
Yes, it was the first game back, and, yes, the Nuggets were down three starters who likely would've made this game very different. However, it cannot be ignored the type of statement this Miami win made. It's not just Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo putting points on the board. In the second half, Duncan Robinson, Jae Crowder and even Kelly Olynyk all lit Denver's defense up from long range. Crowder went 3 of 4 from 3-point range, and came up huge when the Nuggets were largely focused on stopping Robinson from going off from deep. Then, in the third quarter, Robinson broke free to finish the game with 17 points. Goran Dragic even had a strong showing, with 13 points and finishing the game with a plus-13.
In the fourth quarter, though, it was the Olynyk show, as the reserve big man went off for 20 points. Olynyk played 24 minutes in the matchup, which is unusual as head coach Erik Spoelstra typically elects to play -- and start -- Meyers Leonard. However, for unknown reasons Leonard didn't see the court today, and Olynyk stepped up to put the game away for Miami.
The Heat's depth isn't a secret, but after nearly five months off, it's a bit surprising that this team was able to pick right back up where they left off. This type of production, where four of the five starters finish in double figures and players like Olynyk put up big numbers, should be exciting for a Miami team that is looking to play spoiler to some of the top teams in the East when the playoffs begin.
Robinson-Adebayo connection is a problem
Adebayo has had a breakout season, which earned him All-Star recognition back in February. Robinson, meanwhile, has gained attention as being one of the best 3-point shooters in the league. Separately, they've been crucial to Miami's success this season, but Saturday's game showed that when the two are playing off each other, they can create a formidable duo.
On several occasions both players would take turns bringing the ball up the court, set screens for each other and feed the ball back for an open look. In one instance, Robinson came off a screen to get the ball from Adebayo, and instead of putting up what would've been a poor shot selection, he skipped it back to Adebayo, who then tossed it cross court to Crowder for an open 3-pointer. While Butler and Adebayo are the headliners for Miami, Robinson and Adebayo can also be a troubling duo for opposing teams. Between Robinson's shooting and smart decision making, and Adebayo's versatility that includes improved playmaking skills, these two players are going to be a problem for years to come in Miami.
Nuggets felt impact of missing three starters
Coming into this game down three starters, Denver knew it was going to be a tough task trying to beat a fully healthy Miami squad. The first half looked like the Nuggets would be able to pull off a win, as players like Jerami Grant and PJ Dozier were coming up big on both sides of the floor. However, it was short lived as Miami got rolling after halftime.
It quickly became apparent in the second half that Denver desperately need the scoring and playmaking of Jamal Murray, Gary Harris and Will Barton. They realized quickly Michael Porter Jr., Monte Morris and Torrey Craig just weren't enough. By midway through the third quarter, after Olynyk sinked three straight 3-pointers, it was clear that Denver was outmatched. Despite the loss, though, this shouldn't spell gloom and doom for the Nuggets. As the No. 3 seed in the West, the Nuggets are guaranteed a playoff spot, and should be fully healthy when the postseason rolls around. Blowout losses are never fun, but considering the circumstances, Denver can chalk this up to a learning experience for the younger players and focus on its next matchup against the Oklahoma City Thunder.