The Denver Nuggets have officially won their first NBA Championship.
To do so, they took down the Miami HEAT in 5 games and completed the series win with a 94-89 Game 5 victory. Denver’s postseason run has been dominant, going 16-4 through four rounds of play. This was the 14th-best playoff record by an NBA champion in NBA history.
Nikola Jokić was the star of the show for Denver and finished with 28 points to go with 16 rebounds. His big performance helped him win Finals MVP.
Michael Porter Jr. finished with a double-double of 16 points and 13 rebounds.
It was not a game of offensive execution. Denver shot just 17.9 percent from the three-point line, while Miami went 25.7 percent from deep. Denver was able to perform much better from 2-point range with 58.9 percent shooting, whereas Miami shot just 39.8 percent inside the arc. Denver won the rebounding battle convincingly against Miami in Game 5, 57-44. They also scored more fastbreak points, winning 19-12 in that statistical category.
Denver got off to a 12-5 start by pushing the pace in transition and getting 4 early points from Caldwell-Pope. Miami, meanwhile, could not hit the broad side of the barn and missed 10-straight shots after making their first two. Miami furiously came back on a 16-6 run, and Jokić picked up his second foul. This forced Malone to put DeAndre Jordan in, who immediately made an impact with three great contests. Porter Jr. hit two shots at the rim late to put the Nuggets behind just 24-22 at the end of the first.
The HEAT carried their rhythm over from the first quarter and turned the 16-6 run into a 21-9 run. This gave Miami a 10-point lead, up 39-29, forcing a timeout from Malone at the 7:17 mark in the second quarter. His timeout worked, and Denver cut the lead down to 4 with smothering defense. Miami was able to get the lead back up to 9 points after Kyle Lowry hit two threes and Bam Adebayo reached 18 points with multiple shots at the rim. After going just 1-of-15 from three-point range and 3-of-8 from the free-throw line, Denver entered halftime down 51-44.
Denver opened the half on a 13-5 run to tie the ballgame at 60 apiece as Jamal Murray started to come alive with 5 points. Neither team could find any sort of rhythm, with both squads under 41 percent shooting the quarter. But then, in what was a welcome sight for Denver, Porter Jr. hit a three-pointer after missing 20 of his 22 previous looks from deep. Miami led 71-70 heading into the fourth quarter.
Jokić took on the scoring mantle in the fourth with 6 early points. Both teams then went on a scoring drought for nearly 3 minutes until Murray hit a wide-open midrange jumper out of a pick-and-roll with Jokić. Jimmy Butler had one last push in him and hit two late shots from deep, but Caldwell-Pope hit a three in transition to keep it a 4-point game. Butler drew three free throws while fouled in the corner from three and nailed them all to make it a 1-point game with 3:21 remaining.
Butler made a floater to give Miami a 1-point lead a possession later, but then Jokić made a layup while posted up against Caleb Martin on a mismatch. Butler drew free throws once more, and Bruce Brown grabbed an offensive rebound for the stick back to bring Denver’s lead back up to 1. Butler turned the ball over the next possession while passing out to a teammate on the perimeter, and Miami was forced to foul Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
KCP, the only player that had won a championship on Denver’s roster, calmly sunk both free throws to make it a three-point game with 24 seconds remaining. The Nuggets needed one more stop and got it when Butler missed a three-pointer, and Brown sunk two free throws to seal the game and the NBA championship for Denver.