The Denver Nuggets defeated the Miami Heat in Game 5 of the NBA Finals to capture their first title in franchise history on Monday night.
Denver won the series 4-1 and went on to win the game 94-89. Jimmy Butler would miss a faded 3-pointer to try to tie the game and the Nuggets went down on the rebounds. Bruce Brown sank two crucial free throws to close out the game.
Nikola Jokic led the way with 28 points, 16 rebounds and four assists. Jamal Murray added 14 points, eight rebounds and eight assists. The two superstars would be an integral part of how Denver would shut down Miami in the fourth quarter.
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Jokic was named NBA Finals MVP. He had at least 23 points in every Finals game and didn’t go without a double-double in every one. He averaged 30.2 points, 14 rebounds and 7.2 assists per Finals game.
What made the difference was in the fourth quarter, where Denver outscored Miami 24-18.
With one point less going into the final frame, Jokic started the fourth with an easy hook into the paint off an assist from Murray. Duncan Robinson would go down and miss a jumper and Cody Zeller would miss a tip-in opportunity. Aaron Gordon grabbed the rebound and the offense capitalized.
Gordon found Murray, who hit a 3-pointer to extend Denver’s lead to four points with 11 minutes to go before championship glory.
Caleb Martin would respond with a nifty layup to end the 5-0 run. The fight would continue.
As it looked like Denver would pull away, Butler pulled off a four-point game twice with about 4 minutes left. He was fouled with 3:21 to go on a controversial call that was upheld after a challenge.
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Butler cut the deficit to one point. On the Heat’s next possession, Butler would again show up with a bucket in the paint. He would go on an 8-0 run alone before Jokic came back up with 2:22 remaining.
The game got even tighter, but it would all come down to offensive rebounding. Murray missed a shot that faded and Bruce Brown came to collect and repositioned the shot to put Denver up a point in the final seconds.
With about 30 seconds left in the game, Butler tried to push in the paint but was tagged. He tried to pass the ball, but Kentavious Caldwell-Pope grabbed it from him and delivered two more free throws to seal the game.
Butler finished with 21 points on 5-for-18 shooting. Bam Adebayo scored 20 points with 12 rebounds on 9-of-20 shooting from the ground. Max Strus had 12 points, but was only 1-for-6 on three. Kyle Lowry had 12 points and Martin had 10 points off the bench.
Miami entered the playoffs as the No. 8 seed and put together one upset after another for a chance to sniff the Larry O’Brien Trophy. However, the Nuggets proved throughout the year that they were a force to be reckoned with.
Denver came to the NBA after the merger with the ABA. The team had only been to one final overall, in 1976 in the ABA. The team lost to the New York Nets in six games.
Now, all of them can be NBA champions.
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“We’re not satisfied with just one,” Denver coach Michael Malone said. “We want more!”