What seemed impossible for half a century, finally became a reality on Monday night, as the Denver Nuggets secured their first NBA championship in franchise history with a 4-1 series win over the Miami Heat.
Denver outlasted Miami in a not-so-pretty 94-89 win for Game 5, where, once again, Nikola Jokić bailed out his teammates with 28 points and 16 rebounds on a night when nothing else was working.
The 28-year old Serbian logged a ridiculous 10 triple-doubles in the historic run, with an impressive average of 30 points, 13.5 rebounds, and 9.5 assists - just shy of a triple-double in every single game.
We are not in it for ourselves, we are in it for the guy next to us. And that's why this (means) even more
The Joker has officially become the first player in NBA history to lead the league in points (600), rebounds (269), and assists (190) in a single postseason. As expected, his performance earned him the NBA Finals MVP as he lifted the Bill Russell trophy. Alongside two league MVP awards for the 2021 and '22 seasons, Jokić has truly cemented himself as one of the most dominant forces in the NBA.
Of course, Jokić has been the biggest impact in this Finals run, but combined with Jamal Murray, they created a dynamic duo that Miami just couldn't handle.
In the title-winning victory the duo totalled 42 points, mimicking playoff performances that dominated the Minnesota Timberwolves, Phoenix Suns and Los Angeles Lakers over the past two months.
After missing the entire 2021/22 season with an ACL tear, Murray has climbed back to the top where he now holds the first and second place for the most points scored by a Canadian player in the playoffs - with 522 in 2023 and 504 in 2024.
Meanwhile, Jimmy Butler was the only shining star for Miami in the playoffs and it was no different in a gruelling Game 5 as he rallied to put Miami ahead multiple times late in the game.
The Nuggets were struggling with their 3-point shots, missing 20 out of their first 22 attempts. They also had trouble with their free throws, missing seven out of their first 13. Despite the mishaps, they managed to take a solid seven-point lead. But, Jimmy Butler went on a run, scoring eight consecutive points to give his team a one-point lead with 2:45 remaining.
Denver fought back, but Butler then made two more free throws with 1:58 left, regaining the one-point advantage. Then, Bruce Brown made a crucial offensive rebound and tip-in, giving the Nuggets the lead that they held until the end.
With only 15 seconds left and trailing by three points, Butler attempted a three-pointer but missed. Brown and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope sealed the game by making two free throws each, securing the victory and the championship for the Denver Nuggets. Butler finished with 21 points, but it wasn't quite enough to hold back Denver.
THE STAGE IS SET 🍿— NBA (@NBA) June 13, 2023
KCP's steal and free throws give Denver a 3-point lead with 24.7 seconds to go in Game 5 on ABC! pic.twitter.com/Ty6ycMYPjj
Those last three or four minutes felt like a scene out of a movie. Two teams in the centre of the ring throwing haymaker after haymaker, and it's not necessarily shot making. It's the efforts.
Miami may have put in good effort in closing minutes, but their shooting was far from good for the majority of the game. Bam Adebayo logged 20, but Miami shot just 34 per cent inside the arc and 25 per cent from 3. Until Butler went off at the end, he was only 2 for 13 with eight points...
Denver weren't much better, with just 18% from the 3, down from 37% in the rest of the series. Even with great shots from Brown and Caldwell-Pope, they only had 13 for 23 from the line.
It may have been an underwhelming game to finish Denver's dominant playoff run, but Nikola Jokić lifting the trophy was only a matter of time.
What's your prediction for 2024? Will The Joker continue to rule? Or will playoff Jimmy come back for another historic run?
(Header Image Credit: Ron Chenoy - USA TODAY Sports)