On Monday, June 12, the Denver Nuggets brought home the Larry O’Brien trophy for the first time in the franchise’s 47 years in the league. Despite a chaotic and rocky start, the Nuggets pulled through and defeated the Miami Heat 94-89 in Game 5 of the NBA Finals.
The Nuggets started off weak: they missed 20 of their 22 3-pointers, and they missed seven of their first 13 free throws. Nikola Jokic, the Serbian star who was named the NBA Finals MVP, rallied the team and had 28 points and 16 rebounds. He averaged 30.2 points, 14 rebounds, 7.2 assists, and 1.4 blocks over the five games. Jokic is the only player in NBA history to lead all players in points (600), rebounds (269), and assists (190) in a single postseason. "We are not in it for ourselves, we are in it for the guy next to us," Jokic said, "and that's why this (means) even more."
With the help of Jokic, the Nuggets led by 7 points late in the game, but Jimmy Butler of the Miami Heat scored eight straight points to give the Heat a 1-point lead with 2:45 left in the fourth quarter.
Still on fire, Butler made two more free throws with 1:58 remaining to help Miami gain a 1-point lead, but Bruce Brown of the Nuggets made an offensive rebound and basket to secure the lead. With 15 seconds left, Brown and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope made two free throws each to clinch the title for Denver.
Although they pulled through in the end, the Nuggets had one of their worst performances. The Nuggets, who were shooting 37.6% from the arch during the series, shot 18% in Game 5.They committed 14 turnovers, and even with the game savers from Brown and Caldwell-Pope, they only went 13 for 23 from the line. The Nuggets scored 94 points on 96 possessions in Game 5, a rate of 97.9 per 100. Game 5 was the Nuggets’ least efficient offensive performance of the playoffs, and the least efficient offensive performance of any winning team in the postseason.
“It was ugly and we couldn’t make shots, but at the end we figured it out,” Jokic said. “I am just happy we won the game.”
A victory is a victory at the end of the day, and the Nuggets celebrated their astonishing and tenacious defeat with a parade through downtown Denver. An estimated 750,000 people cheered on the players, coaches, and owners to celebrate Denver’s first NBA title in history.
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