Denver Nuggets forward Aaron Gordon, left, tries to get past Miami Heat guard Gabe Vincent during the first half of Game 1 of basketball's NBA Finals on June 1, 2023, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

DENVER | Aaron Gordon took a detour from serving as Denver’s defensive stalwart in these playoffs to jump-start the Nuggets’ offense in the franchise’s first foray into the NBA Finals.

Gordon not only helped hold Jimmy Butler to 13 points, but he muscled his way past Miami’s smaller defenders in the paint, scoring 12 points and pulling down four rebounds in the first quarter as the Nuggets shook off a 10-day layover and rolled over the Heat 104-93 Thursday night.

Gordon had 14 points and five boards by the time the Nuggets went into their locker room up 59-42 at the break. That marked the largest halftime lead of a Game 1 in the finals since the Celtics jumped out to a 79-49 halftime lead over the Lakers on May 27, 1985, in a 34-point rout that was dubbed the “Memorial Day Massacre.”

Gordon has been the Nuggets’ best defender in the playoffs, doing commendable jobs on the likes of Karl-Anthony Towns, Kevin Durant and LeBron James in helping the top-seeded Nuggets reach their first NBA Finals.

Yes, James scored 40 points in the Nuggets’ sweep-clinching Game 4 in the last round, but his game-tying shot at the buzzer was tied up by Jamal Murray and then blocked by Gordon.

Gordon, who used to be the No. 1 scoring option in Orlando, took a smaller offensive role in Denver behind its three max contract players — Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. — following his 2021 trade to the Nuggets.

“I would say him and (Kentavious Caldwell-Pope) are our defensive anchors,” Porter said on the eve of Game 1. “Aaron guarded KAT, then KD, then LeBron. He’s guarded some high-powered offensive players. He just really has done a good job for us on that side.

“There’s really not a way to describe how valuable he is to our team,” Porter added. “I’m looking forward to him doing that again in this series.”

Gordon not only did his usual work on the defensive end but on offense as the Nuggets quickly built a double-digit lead before fending off a furious fourth-quarter run by the Heat, the second No. 8 seed to reach the finals by beating the NBA’s top two seeds (Milwaukee in five and Boston in seven).

It was surely enough for him to do it in the finals but it had to be especially sweet to do it against the Heat. Gordon lost the 2020 NBA Slam Dunk Contest to Miami forward Derrick Jones Jr.

Gordon thought he secured the victory on his final dunk when he pulled 7-foot-5 rookie Tacko Fall out of the crowd and had Fall hold the ball over his head before jumping over him and completing the dunk. Three of the five judges, however, scored it a nine instead of a 10, handing the title to Jones — and one of those judges was Dwyane Wade.

Gordon was traded to Denver the following season and took a back seat in the Nuggets’ star-studded offense — until Thursday night when he starred at both ends of the court.

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