NBA Twitter roasts Heat’s Cody Zeller for rough first half vs. Nikola Jokic, Nuggets: ‘Absolutely hilarious’


Cody Zeller saw the first NBA Finals action of his career on Thursday and the Heat squared off against the Nuggets in Game 1 of the best-of-seven series.

It did not go well for the veteran big man.

Zeller — who checked in to relieve Bam Adebayo, as he has done often this postseason — was given the impossible task of guarding Nuggets center Nikola Jokic. He struggled to contain the two-time NBA MVP and ended up on the wrong side of some highlight plays as a result.

LIVE: Updates, highlights from Nuggets vs. Heat in Game 1 of 2023 NBA Finals

Defensively, Zeller was overmatched by Jokic’s strength and, surprisingly enough, the center’s quickness. Jokic isn’t particularly fast or athletic, but he was still able to make the slow-footed Zeller work to stay in front of him.

And when Jokic was driving to the hoop, Zeller wasn’t able to slow him down at all.

When Zeller was on offense, the results were even more embarrassing. At one point, Jokic completely abandoned Zeller while the center was driving to the hoop. The 30-year-old had a chance to lay the ball in, but he was unable to convert.

Zeller was able to record three rebounds in the half but otherwise failed to make much of a positive impact. NBA fans and media personalities noted as much, and they broke down Zeller’s performance both with legitimate analysis and jokes that poked fun at the veteran.

MORE: Why defending Nikola Jokic is the Heat’s greatest challenge yet

Below are some of the most notable reactions to Zeller’s first half.

It’s hard to blame Zeller too much for his struggles against Jokic. He is simply overmatched in that battle, as most backup big men across the NBA would be. The problem is that Miami simply doesn’t have a particularly deep frontcourt rotation, so Zeller has had to fill that role.

MORE: Nikola Jokic or Jimmy Butler? Ranking 10 best players in the Finals

Still, it’s worth remembering that Zeller was once capable of defending the Nuggets star. That was seven years ago, when he blocked Jokic three times on one possession.

Even so, given Zeller’s present-day struggles, it wouldn’t be surprising to see coach Erik Spoelstra try a different option moving forward. Perhaps Kevin Love or Omar Yurtseven will be the first big off the bench in Game 2 when Adebayo needs a break.

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