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Nuggets Beat Heat to Win First Ever NBA Championship

Denver Nuggets NBA
USA Finals-Miami Heat at Denver Nuggets Jun 12, 2023 ©IMAGO / USA Today Network

The Denver Nuggets won their first ever NBA Championship on Monday, defeating the Miami Heat 94-89 at the Ball Arena in Denver to win Game 5 of the Finals. The Nuggets never looked stretched throughout the Finals, with their only loss coming at home in Game 2, as the Heat avoided the clean sweep.

Two-time MVP Nikola Jokic led the way for the Nuggets, with a game-high 28 points and 16 rebounds in Game 5. Michael Porter Jr. and Jamal Murray chipped in with 16 and 14 points respectively.

The Heat played hard but were unable to overcome their offensive woes, shooting just 34.4% from the field. Jimmy Butler led the team in scoring with 21 points while Bam Adebayo had 20 to go with 12 boards. 

Denver had a relatively poor night offensively as well, shooting just 17.9 from three-point land and missing 10 free throws. They were able to stay in the game by winning the rebounding war 57-44 and playing some tight defense down the stretch, holding the Heat to just 18 points in the 4th quarter.

Jokic was named the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player (MVP) after becoming the first player in league history to lead the playoffs in total points (600), rebounds (269) and assists (190). The 28-year-old also posted 10 total triple-doubles over the course of the playoffs to pass Wilt Chamberlain (7) for most all-time in a single playoff run. It’s been a great month for Serbians in sports as tennis superstar Novak Djokovic also took home a record 23rd grand slam title at the French Open.

Despite losing, the Heat will look at the 2022/23 season as a massive success after reaching the Finals from the 8th seed in the East. With a few additions during the offseason, the team could be looking as one of the favourites come 2024.

Game 5 Summary

The game was scrappy from the start, as both teams jostled for early dominance to set the tone. Ultimately it was Miami who came out on top in the first, taking a two point to end the quarter. The Heat were then able to push their lead to 10 in the second quarter but couldn’t quite cut the game open as Denver kept making timely runs to keep the lead in single digits. The game went into halftime with Miami up 51-44.

The third quarter saw the Nuggets cut into the lead and go ahead for a short period late in the period. The Heat held on however, putting on a small run at the end of the third to lead 71-70 heading into the final frame. 

Denver tightened the screws in the fourth, opening up a five-point lead with six minutes to go in the game. Jimmy Butler then struck fire out of nowhere, hitting 13 points in a row for his club which included a very controversial three-point foul call which put the Heat within one. 

Denver then closed out the game, making the final six points with Bruce Brown knocking in a putback layup with 91 seconds left, and then Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Brown hitting free throws to ice the game. Miami couldn’t get the ball through the hoop despite many attempts from beyond the arc by a number of different Heat players.

What’s Next for the Champs?

Before this season, the Nuggets had never advanced to the NBA Finals and had only reached the Conference Finals four times in franchise history (1978, 1985, 2009, 2020). With All-Stars Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic locked in for multiple years, the team has a legitimate chance to be back in the Finals next year, vying for multiple championships. 

Jokic has proven that he is the top center in the league and arguably one of the best big men in the history of the game. Expect him to want to cement his palace in history by taking back-to-back titles in 2024. For now however, the Nuggets have their victory parade on Thursday through the streets of Denver.