On Monday, the Denver Nuggets held off the Miami Heat in Game 5 of the NBA Finals by the score of 94-89. In doing so, they won the championship and took home the Larry O’Brien trophy for the first time in franchise history, which dates back 47 years.
Jamal Murray, Nikola Jokic and all the supporting cast came up with crucial plays in the final minutes, and Murray believes that there are more championships to come. Jokic and Murray made history by becoming the first teammates in NBA history to average at least 25 points, five assists, and five rebounds per game in the playoffs.
Jokic came up huge in the most significant moment, scoring 10 of his 28 points in the fourth quarter. He knocked down 12-of-16 shots from the floor and added 16 rebounds and four assists, earning NBA Finals MVP. Jokic led all players this postseason in points, assists, and rebounds, becoming the first player in league history to do so.
While the Nuggets winning the title might come as a surprise to some, Jokic felt great about the team on the first day of training camp last September. The diverse nature of the roster led Jokic to believe the team could make the appropriate adjustments to any defense thrown at them.
Denver struggled from beyond the arc in the deciding game, hitting just 5-of-28, and they trailed by double digits in the first half. The team got a massive lift from Michael Porter Jr, who tallied 16 points and 13 rebounds, including seven points in the third to get the Nuggets back into the game.
Murray had a relatively mediocre 14 points but had eight assists and eight rebounds. He played a vital part in the deciding fourth quarter, assisting on a few key plays later in the fourth to put Denver in control.
Jimmy Butler, who struggled from the floor all game, tried to tie the game with a late 3-pointer, but his shot caromed off the rim into the hands of Denver’s Bruce Brown to seal the game and title.
Denver coach Michael Malone noted how legendary coach Pat Riley said how a team goes from a nobody to an upstart, to a winner, to a contender, and to a champion. After becoming a champion, the goal is to become a dynasty.
Denver has built their team around Jokic and Murray, with key components in Aaron Gordan and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. The team had to overcome injuries to Porter and Murray over the past couple of seasons but remained consistent with their coaching staff and philosophy.
The Nuggets could lose Brown via free agency after averaging 11.5 points and 4.1 rebounds per game this season. The good news for Denver and bad news for the rest of the NBA is that their starting five remains intact until at least 2025.
Nuggets president Josh Kroenke is excited about winning a title and doesn’t mind that others around the league find them boring. As he noted, “We’ll keep winning.” Murray echoes that, saying, “We clearly can do it, so let’s do it again.”
The Nuggets will begin their quest to defend their title in a few short months.
As the Nuggets celebrate their first NBA title, elsewhere in the basketball world, the Miami Heat continue their improbable playoff run.