The yearslong trend the Heat will have to break to beat the Nuggets -- and Nikola Jokic

DENVER -- In late December, the Miami Heat started a long road trip at Ball Arena and Bam Adebayo had an excellent night at the office.

He scored 22 points, repeatedly forcing Denver Nuggets defenders out of position as he got 11 trips to the foul line. He was at his defensive playmaking best with four steals and two blocks. It was every bit the All-Star and All-Defense-worthy performance that has become the trademark of his career.

And Adebayo and the Miami Heat were still blitzed by the playmaking artistry of Nikola Jokic, who served up 12 assists alongside 12 rebounds and 19 points to complete the triple-double in a five-point win.

This has been the story between Adebayo and Jokic -- and, therefore, the Nuggets and Heat -- for years. The Heat's franchise center has routinely been productive and aggressive when faced with the monumental challenge that is Jokic. And repeatedly, the two-time MVP has just been better.

The stakes were at their highest Thursday night in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. And there was Adebayo doing his thing, piling up 26 points with 13 rebounds and 5 assists. He was the best player on the floor for the Heat, delivering when he's needed most after a disappointing Eastern Conference finals performance.

And there was Jokic, again. He was the best player on the floor (again) with 27 points, 14 assists and 10 rebounds. Just like last season's regular-season visit to Denver, when Adebayo had a triple-double -- and Jokic had a bigger one. Or the game last year in Miami when Adebayo had 24 points, 13 rebounds and 6 assists -- and Jokic had 24, 15 and 7.

Loss. Loss.