Game 1 of the 2023 NBA Finals between the Miami Heat and Denver Nuggets wasn't as close of a game as the final score indicated. The Nuggets may have only won on Thursday night by 11 points, but they were in control the entire game and led by 24 points at one point.
Heat star wing Jimmy Butler was unable to match Nikola Jokic's Game 1 performance. Jokic finished with a 27-point triple-double on just 12 shot attempts, while Butler finished the game with a mere 13 points, his lowest scoring output this postseason.
While not a lot went well for the Heat aside from big scoring nights from Gabe Vincent, Bam Adebayo, and Haywood Highsmith, Heat fans shouldn't worry just yet. After all, all the Nuggets did was win a game at home. And if Erik Spoelstra and the Heat make just two adjustments, they will be in a prime position to steal Game 2 on the road on Sunday night. With this in mind, let's look at the two biggest adjustments the Heat must make for Game 2 of the NBA Finals vs. the Nuggets:
2 biggest adjustments Heat must make for Game 2
1. Get Caleb Martin more touches
In the Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Celtics, Caleb Martin was arguably Miami's best player. He averaged 19.3 points and 6.4 rebounds per game for the series on shooting splits of 60.2%/48.9%/87.5%. Martin scored the ball incredibly efficiently from all areas of the floor against Boston, and the Heat probably wouldn't be playing in the NBA Finals right now if it wasn't for his contributions in the Conference Finals. But Martin flat-out laid an egg in Thursday night's loss to the Nuggets.
Martin scored just three points on 1-for-7 shooting from the field in Game 1. For reference, Martin averaged 12.6 field-goal attempts in the Celtics series, nearly double the amount he took on Thursday. And if the Heat want to tie this series up at one game apiece on Sunday, they need Martin's total shot attempts to be closer to that 12.6 number. He's simply too talented of an offensive player and too invaluable to this Heat team to be taking just seven shots in an entire game.
2. Start Haywood Highsmith over Max Strus
Max Strus is one of the best pure shooters on the Miami Heat roster. And his ability to space the floor and open up driving lanes for the likes of Jimmy Butler and Caleb Martin is very beneficial to the Heat's offense.
But Strus stunk it up from behind the three-point arc on Thursday. He shot a shockingly poor 0-for-9 from three. It was Strus' worst shooting performance of the entire postseason, which should be a sign to the Heat coaching staff that they should shake up their starting lineup and take out Strus for Haywood Highsmith.
Highsmith has received inconsistent playing time in these playoffs, but when called upon on Thursday, he made the most of his opportunity by impacting the game on both ends of the floor. In 23 minutes off the bench, he scored 18 points on 2-for-4 shooting from behind the arc and also chipped in two steals and a block. While Highsmith isn't a better shooter than Strus, he shot the ball better than Strus in Game 1 while also being much more active on defense than him. Hence, Erik Spoelstra and the Heat would be wise to change their starting lineup for Sunday's game.