2023 NBA Finals

Numbers Game: 5 key stats from Nuggets' title-clinching victory

Despite free-throw issues in Game 5, Denver closes out playoffs with 16-4 record en route to its 1st NBA championship.

Game Recap: Nuggets 94, Heat 89

The Denver Nuggets are NBA champions.

Game 5 of the NBA Finals was not pretty, but the Nuggets got it done with a 94-89 victory over the Miami Heat. This broke a streak of four straight Finals that ended in six games and gave the Western Conference its seventh championship in the last 10 years.

Nikola Jokic, of course, was the Finals MVP, averaging 30.2 points, 14.0 rebounds, 7.2 assists and 1.4 blocks over the five games. He’s the only player in NBA history to lead all players in points (600), rebounds (269) and assists (190) in a single postseason.

Here are five numbers to know from Game 5 and the series overall …

97.9 – The Nuggets scored 94 points on 96 possessions in Game 5, a rate of 97.9 per 100.

That was the Nuggets’ least efficient offensive performance of the playoffs and the least efficient offensive performance for any winning team in the postseason (90 total games, including the Play-In).

The Nuggets had their second worst 3-point shooting game of the season (102 total games), going 5-for-28 (18%) from beyond the arc. They also had their eighth worst free-throw shooting game of the season, going 13-for-23 (57%) at the stripe.

But things were uglier on the other side of the floor, where the Heat shot just 24-for-61 (39.3%) inside the arc, including 22-for-54 (40.7%) in the paint. It was the third time in the Finals that they made less than half of their shots in the paint.

100.0 – The Heat scored just 100.0 points per 100 possessions over the last three games of the Finals.

A year ago, the last three games of the Finals were the Boston Celtics’ worst three-game stretch of offense all season. The Miami Heat almost repeated that feat. Their 100.0 per 100 was their second worst three-game stretch of the season, and their worst since before Thanksgiving (Nov. 18-21, 95.8 per 100).

Credit a Denver defense that ranked 15th in the regular season, the lowest regular-season defensive ranking for an NBA champion in the last 22 years (since the 22nd-ranked 2000-01 Lakers). After a lot of brutal defensive breakdowns in their Game 2 loss, the Nuggets cleaned things up and got after it on that end of the floor over the last three games.

In fact, those 100.0 points per 100 possessions over the last three games were the fewest that the Nuggets allowed over any three-game stretch all season.

13.6 – The Nuggets outscored the Heat by 13.6 points in the paint per game in the Finals.

That was the biggest points-in-the-paint differential in any of the 15 playoff series this year and the biggest in the Finals in the last 23 years, since the Lakers outscored the Pacers by 21.3 points in the paint per game in the 2000 Finals.

Though the Heat shot just 34.3% from 3-point range in the series, Game 5 was the fourth time that they outscored the Nuggets by double-digits from 3-point range. But Denver was just dominant inside.

Jokic was the leading paint scorer in the series at 17.2 per game, capping his MVP performance with 11-for-13 shooting in the paint in Game 5. Bam Adebayo wasn’t too far behind at 14.4 per game, but shot just 36-for-80 (45.0%) in the paint over the series, compared to Jokic’s 43-for-69 (62.3%). Aaron Gordon, meanwhile, was the leading scorer in the restricted area (44 total points).

Nikola Jokic may have positioned centers to make a big comeback in the NBA.

-3 – Over their 20 playoff games, the Nuggets were outscored by just three points in 176 total minutes with Jokic off the floor.

That’s not bad! In the regular season, the Nuggets were an amazing 22.9 points per 100 possessions better with Jokic on the floor (plus-12.5) than they were with him off the floor (minus-10.4). That was the biggest on-off differential among 252 players who played at least 1,000 minutes this season, and the third biggest differential in the last 15 years.

But in the playoffs, the Nuggets managed to not get destroyed when their best player took a rest. They had some issues when Jokic picked up two early fouls in Game 5, bit in the Finals, they actually outscored the Heat by two points in Jokic’s 35 total minutes on the bench. There’s only a tiny bit of garbage time in there, and the Nuggets scored an amazing 79 points on 61 possessions (129.5 per 100) on 34 minutes with Jamal Murray on the floor without Jokic.

16-4 – The Nuggets were 16-4 in the playoffs.

After losing Games 3 and 4 of the conference semifinals in Phoenix, they won 10 of their last 11 games, the first time since mid-January that they won 10 of 11. Game 4 of the Finals capped the Nuggets’ first five-game road winning streak of the season.

The 16-4 mark is tied for the second best record for any champion in the 21 years since the first round changed to a best-of-seven format. The only champs with a better mark (16-1) were the 2016-17 Warriors.

* * *

John Schuhmann is a senior stats analyst for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Warner Bros. Discovery.