(CNN) — The Denver Nuggets are NBA champions for the first time in franchise history after defeating the Miami Heat 94-89 on Monday in Game 5 of the NBA Finals.
Nuggets superstar Nikola Jokic had 28 points on 12-of-16 shooting, as well as 16 rebounds, and was named MVP [Jugador Más Valioso] of the NBA Finals. The Serbian center is the first center to win NBA Finals MVP since Shaquille O’Neal in 2002.
“We’re not winning for ourselves, we’re winning for the person next to us and that’s why [significa] even more,” Jokic said after being named MVP on what the league meant to him.
After early shooting problems, the Heat turned an eight-point deficit in the first quarter into a 10-point lead in the second. Led by Miami center Bam Adebayo’s 18 points in the first half, the Heat finished the first two quarters seven points ahead of the Nuggets (51-44).
Denver, which missed 20 of its first 22 3-point attempts, rallied in the second half and outscored the Heat 26-20 in the third quarter to cut the deficit to 71-70 heading into the quarter.
In the fourth quarter, in which the Nuggets led by seven points, Jimmy Butler orchestrated an 8-0 run as the Heat went up 87-86 and momentarily regained the lead.
Denver’s bench would respond by scoring the final six points of the game, stifling the Heat offense.
With 15 seconds left and the Heat trailing by three, Butler missed a potentially game-winning triple. Nuggets forward Bruce Brown grabbed the defensive rebound on a Butler error and, after being fouled, made two free throws to extend Denver’s lead to take the game win and the series 4-1.
Nuggets player Jamal Murray finished with 14 points, eight rebounds and eight assists, while Michael Porter Jr. added 16 points and 13 rebounds.
“All the hard work, all the sacrifice, all the dedication, it all culminated in winning a championship,” Denver Nuggets coach Michael Malone said on ABC’s post-victory broadcast. “But I have news for everyone out there: We’re not satisfied with one. We want more. We want more.”
The city of Denver will hold a championship show of the Nuggets this Thursday June 15th.
In the franchise’s 47th NBA season, the Nuggets made the playoffs as the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference after finishing with a 53–29 regular season record. Denver’s dominant run at the title began with a 4-1 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves in the first round.
The Nuggets’ biggest challenge came against the Phoenix Suns in the Western Conference Semifinals, where Jokic made headlines after a incident in the band with Suns owner Mat Ishbia in Game 4 of that series. However, the Serbian silenced the noise with a triple-double of 32 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds in Game 6, which closed out the series and advanced to the Western Conference Finals.
Prior to this season, Denver had reached the conference finals four times in franchise history (1978, 1985, 2009, 2020), each time losing to the Los Angeles Lakers.
However, the Nuggets overcame their postseason woes against the Lakers, sweeping the 17-time champions in four games to reach the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history.
Central to the Nuggets’ postseason dominance was none other than two-time MVP Jokic, who etched his name into the history books along the way. The 28-year-old had a total of ten triple-doubles and surpassed Wilt Chamberlain (7) as the all-time leading scorer in a single playoff tie. He also finished the postseason as the first player in NBA history to lead all players in points, rebounds and assists in a single postseason, according to ESPN statistics and information.
For its part, Miami entered the postseason as the number 8 seed, after clinching a playoff berth and an unlikely Finals qualification, via NBA playoff games. While chasing the franchise’s fourth championship, Miami entered the series looking to become the first No. 8 seed to win an NBA title since the 16-team playoff format began 39 years ago.
Political figures and other Denver city sports franchises congratulated the Denver Nuggets on social media for their win.
Former US President Barack Obama tweeted, “Congratulations to Denver MVP standout @Nuggets and Finals player Nikola Jokić on taking home the franchise’s first NBA championship!”
Congratulations to Denver @Nuggets and outstanding Finals MVP Nikola Jokić for taking home the franchise’s first NBA championship!
—Barack Obama (@BarackObama) June 13, 2023
Legendary Los Angeles Lakers star Earvin “Magic” Johnson tweeted, “Congratulations to Nuggets superstars Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray, every single Nugget player, the entire city and Denver fans.”
Congratulations to Nuggets superstars Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray, every single Nuggets player, the entire city and Denver fans!!
—Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) June 13, 2023