MIAMI — Mike Miller was there from the beginning.

Before the title of “Best Player in the World” was his. Before the All-Star appearances, MVP’s and before Nikola Jokic even earned a starting spot with the Nuggets, Miller was there to witness the earliest days of the golden era of Nuggets basketball. He joined the franchise prior to the start of the 2015-16 season, which was Jokic’s rookie year. He saw the opening act of Jokic’s Hall-of-Fame career first-hand.

Miller has always been a strong Jokic advocate. but did he ever see this happening? Did he see this level of greatness coming?

“I’m not going to sound like I’m crazy and say that I thought he’d be a two-time MVP and be on this stage like this. But I did. I really did,” Miller told DNVR after the Nuggets’ Game 3 win in Miami. “That’s just how good he was and how good he is.”

Jokic and Jamal Murray joined forces in Game 3 to lead the Nuggets to their biggest win in franchise history, a 109-94 triumph over the Heat to take a 2-1 series lead in the NBA Finals. The two-time MVP registered 32 points, 21 rebounds, and 10 assists and became the first player in NBA Finals history to post a 30-20-10 game. Murray tallied a triple-double himself, finishing with 34 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists. Jokic and Murray became the first pair of teammates in NBA history to record 30-point triple-doubles in the same game. Ever.

Murray hit dagger after dagger after dagger after dagger Wednesday night that staved off every Heat rally. He routinely drove by Jimmy Butler like he wasn’t even there.

Miller, whose second season in Denver in 2016-17 coincided with Murray’s rookie year, remembers his initial impression of the Blue Arrow too.

“Jamal has taken huge strides,” Miller told DNVR. “He was always a guy that believed in himself. The moment was never too big, and he’s showing that here.”

Game 3 was a Jokic and Murray classic. It was a dominant, takeover performance from the Nuggets’ two postseason stars who for now have assumed the title of Best Duo in the NBA. In Game 3, they picked apart a Miami defense that stymied Denver in Game 2. They busted the zone coverage that at times halted the Nuggets’ dynamic offense. They made the Heat’s stout defense look ordinary.

Jokic and Murray combined for 64 of the Nuggets’ 109 points. The Nuggets’ third-leading scorer in Game 3 was rookie Christian Braun, whose 15 points gave Denver a needed boost off its bench. Jokic and Murray moved through the Heat defense all night with ease. Similar to how the Jokic-Murray two-man game closed the door on the Lakers in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals, the Nuggets’ duo was just too hot for the Heat to handle.

They danced together in the pick-and-roll. They ISO’d their defenders to death. They hurt Miami from the paint, mid-range, and beyond the arc. Their chemistry and synergy were on point. It was all on display for the world to see.

“I’d say it’s a trust and a feel, that’s the best way for me to put it,” Murray said when describing his chemistry with Jokic. “It’s not really X’s and O’s. It’s just reading the game and trusting that the other is going to make the right play.”

“If he throws it to me, he knows and expects what to see from me, and he knows the mood I’m in, the intensity I’m playing with, whether it’s low or high, time and score, and vice versa. I know when he’s overpassing, I know when he’s looking to score, I know when he’s the best player on the floor, I know when he’s taking a second to get into the game.”

It’s a special sphere that Jokic and Murray are living in right now. That trust and feel isn’t something that’s learned overnight. It’s been forged through years and years of on-court minutes together but also through the relationship and friendship that Jokic and Murray have built over the last seven seasons.

“A lot of guys play with each other. I think those two guys play for each other,” said Malone.

You can’t simply, create what they have overnight, throughout one regular season, or in one summer.

“The reality of the situation is they did it the right way in Denver,” Miller told DNVR. “They did it through the draft, and they kept getting better.”

After the Nuggets’ Game 3 win, a content Denver locker room seemed satisfied with what they had just reminded the world of. These are the same Denver Nuggets that swept the Lakers and entered the NBA Finals with a 12-3 playoff record. This is the same juggernaut that breezed through most of the playoffs. Game 3 was a reminder to those in attendance at the Kaseya Center that the best duo in the NBA is a formidable, historical pairing that’s on a mission.

Jokic sat at his locker after what right now can be considered the best game of his NBA career and re-fueled by taking down a container of watermelon piece by piece. On one side of his locker, a quote of his — curated by assistant coach Charles Klask and blown up on a poster by equipment manager Sparky Gonzalez — that was said after the Nuggets’ clinched their first-ever trip to the NBA Finals tied a bow on a special night.

“We have a chance to do something nice.” – Nikola Jokic

Indeed they do.

“He hasn’t changed much, to be honest,” Miller told DNVR about Jokic. “The game’s still slow for him. He still makes everyone around him better, and he goes and gets what he wants. He’s just an impossible guard.”

“He’s a similar player to the guy he was back then. But now he’s just in better shape. He was always so skilled. Unbelievable size. Playmaking. Scorer. Touch has always been great. Just a great basketball player.”


Harrison Wind is the Denver Nuggets beat reporter for DNVR Nuggets. Hear him every day on the DNVR Nuggets Podcast. Follow Harrison on Twitter - @HarrisonWind