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DENVER -- That was decisive.

And, just maybe, a bit deceptive.

In the opening game of the NBA Finals, the Denver Nuggets' 104-93 win rarely felt that close. It was, aside from a too-late push by the MIami Heat, a stark set of performances. Dominating for Denver. Ugly for the Heat.

There was Nikola Jokic dictating the tone and tenor of the game while taking just 12 shots. His 27-14-10 night just scratched the surface of how effortlessly he seemed to control the game.

There was Jamal Murray with 26 points, an offensive catalyst who also helped Denver, time and again, attack the rim, get to the free throw line, and find easy points.

Speaking of which: There was Miami with just two -- two! -- free throws all night, a mark more of timidity than any officiating issues.

There was Max Strus and Caleb Martin, important keys to Miami scrounging up enough offense to compete in this series, combining to go 1 of 17 from the field. Together, they scored three total points -- the lone shot, a three, that Martin hit.

That offensive awfulness, by comparison, almost made Jimmy Butler's 13 points on his 6-of-14 shooting night look downright respectable.

This was an ugly game for Miami, and a beautiful one for Denver, and a stark reminder of what we all knew before tipoff: This Denver Nuggets team is a much higher mountain the Heat are trying to climb than the past obstacles that brought them here.

And yet.

There were signs, scarce but at the back of the mind, struggling to remind us that this series is far from over.

"This is a great challenge," Spoelstra said. "It's going to require more. We will get to work and see what we can do better, what we can do harder, what we can do with more effort, what we can do with more focus."

Take the start of Miami's fourth quarter, when they cut a 21-point lead to 10 with nine minutes left, and flirted with that range for a good part of the fourth quarter. That they eventually ran out of gas, and time, tracks. 

This game was at altitude, even if Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra was ready to play it on Mt. Everest Wednesday night and bristled at the idea it would have an impact. The Heat entered these NBA Finals having gone the distance in the conference finals, needing a win in Boston Monday night and flying to Colorado in advance of Thursday's Game 1. They were probably always set for a letdown against a well-rested Nuggets squad that had nine days of rest after sweeping the Lakers in the previous round.

Still, Miami is likely to find its rhythm and groove. Butler is unlikely to play so poorly going forward. Spoelstra is as capable as any coach in the NBA at addressing and then adjusting for the free-throw drought and a general malaise.

Martin, or Strus, or both, will hit shots.

Bam Adebayo was fantastic, scoring 26, pulling down 13 rebounds, and showing the version of himself Miami must have to have a chance going forward.

And Miami, if we've learned anything should, just might. They should not be counted out.

Yes, this is the first game Miami has failed to win to open a playoffs series this postseason. They did it against Milwaukee, New York and Boston, setting the stage for those upsets. It sure would have helped to do it again here in Denver.

But they also started each of those first two series at 1-1, having lost Games 2 in the first and second rounds. Which means a win here in Denver on Sunday would have them in the exact same position they were in versus the Bucks and the Knicks.

"I definitely think they came out with a lot of physicality, and we have to be able to match that," Butler said of Denver. "They did their job on their home floor, you have to say that, but we will be ready ... We will adjust, and we will do some things very differently and come out here and be ready to give more for Game 2."

This Denver team, of course, is a different level of challenge. But the Heat have made overcoming those challenges the hallmark of their stunning postseason run. 

Most of us out there -- me included -- believe Denver will win this series. Maybe the Nuggets will do it in dominating fashion after all. Maybe Thursday night was a sign of things to come.

Miami has shown just how resilient they can be, and Game 1, a testament to Denver's excellence, also offers plenty of signs that a better, more dangerous Miami Heat team may be lurking in Game 2.

We're off in the NBA Finals. But this series is far from over.