The Denver Nuggets won 112-108 over the Miami Heat on Monday night, improving to 40-18 on the season. The Nuggets are the second NBA team to reach 40 wins this season.

Nikola Jokić dominated with 27 points, 12 rebounds, and 8 assists, showcasing off impressive post moves versus Bam Adebayo. There was little doubt Jokić could do whatever he wanted tonight, delivering all throughout the game against an elite Heat defense. Michael Porter Jr. also had 17 points on five three-pointers. He joined a group of seven Nuggets to reach double figures in points, highlighting Denver’s ball movement offense that finished with 34 total assists.

The game came down to clutch time, but several Nuggets made important clutch plays to seal it. Vlatko Čančar was chief among them, coming up with key baskets, assists, rebounds, and a blocked shot in the corner on elite three-point shooter Max Strus that effectively sealed the deal late. Vlatko finished with 10 points, 5 rebounds, 6 assists, a steal, and that clutch block.

Here are my takeaways from the Nuggets matchup with the Heat on Monday evening:

Nikola Jokić dominated Bam Adebayo

It’s always funny to see Nikola Jokić go against elite defensive centers because most of them have absolutely nothing for Jokić when he comes to town. Bam Adebayo was no different.

Jokić finished the evening with 27 points, 12 rebounds, and 8 assists on 12-of-14 from the field and 3-of-3 from the line. he committed zero turnovers, and the Nuggets were an absolute machine for most of his minutes in what ended up being a fairly slow paced game. Jokić navigated the Heat defense extremely well, and any time the Nuggets got Joker the ball below the free throw line, it was a bucket.

Sometimes, teams generate elite defensive game plans to slow down Jokić and the Nuggets offense. Tonight, the Miami defense had nothing for the Serbian superstar. Any time they defended the initial action well, Jokić would cut, seal, or drive to the spot he needed to go to generate an easy shot…and he sure made it look easy against an elite defensive player.

Michael Porter Jr. is making serious progress

Michael Porter Jr. certainly isn’t perfect, and he missed some open threes tonight that he’d surely like to have back.

Still, it was a good night for Porter on both ends of the floor, playing well as a certified floor spacer. He attempted 13 three-pointers tonight, one off his career high, and made five of them. It was his one two-point make that was really impressive though, driving past Max Strus on the perimeter and finishing a strong layup at the rim in crunch time. He finished with 17 points on 15 shots but mostly took the right shots every time.

On the defensive end, Porter notched a steal and a block to go with his six rebounds. He switched onto Jimmy Butler often tonight, and though he struggled to avoid fouls at times, he used his length and hands to make the game more difficult for Butler in the later stages. His key block on a Butler isolation flipped the momentum in the fourth for Denver’s defense.

Porter’s never going to be a stopper, but he’s getting to the point where isolating on him isn’t some easy gateway to points for opposing stars. Most score because they are stars, but not because MPJ is playing badly. That’s an important step for Porter’s defense, and it will allow him to remain on the floor when his outside shooting and rebounding matters the most.

A strong debut for Thomas Bryant

When the Nuggets acquired Thomas Bryant at last Thursday’s trade deadline, it was a surprising move, though one that could pay major dividends. He played just two minutes of garbage time on Saturday against the Charlotte Hornets but transitioned into the backup center role against Miami tonight. In 15 minutes, Bryant produced well with 10 points on 4-of-5 from the field to go with 2 rebounds. it wasn’t an elite performance by any stretch, but it highlighted what Bryant can do for Denver’s bench against an elite defense.

Even though Bryant hasn’t had a lot of time to learn the playbook, the Nuggets and Bryant found ways to coexist. He operated as the middle man breaking down Miami’s zone, played in pick and roll with Ish Smith, and ran the floor in transition to the front of the rim for an easy basket. It wasn’t any groundbreaking stuff, but Bryant accomplished it with shooting efficiency and hustle on both ends.

When Reggie Jackson ultimately signs with Denver, the Nuggets bench will look different once again. If there’s any indication though, Bryant will be an impactful addition during the Nuggets’ post All-Star break portion of the regular season and perhaps into the playoffs.

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