Nuggets win franchise’s first NBA championship after holding off Heat in Game 5

The Denver Nuggets defeated the Miami Heat in Game 5 of the NBA Finals to capture its first title in franchise history on Monday night.

Denver won the series 4-1 and won the game 94-89. Jimmy Butler would miss a fadeaway three to try to tie the game and the Nuggets came down with the rebounds. Bruce Brown sunk two clutch free throws to put the game away.

Nikola Jokic led the way with 28 points, 16 rebounds and four assists. Jamal Murray added 14 points, eight rebounds and eight assists. The two superstars would be an integral part of how Denver would close out Miami in the final quarter.


Denver Nuggets players, coaches and owners hold up the Larry O’Brien NBA Championship Trophy after their victory over the Miami Heat in Game 5 of basketball’s NBA Finals, Monday, June 12, 2023, in Denver. ((AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Jokic was named the NBA Finals MVP. He had at least 23 points in each Finals game and didn’t go without having a double-double in each. He averaged 30.2 points 14 rebounds and 7.2 assists per Finals game.

The difference maker was in the fourth quarter where Denver outscored Miami 24-18.

Down one point heading into the final frame, Jokic started the quarter with an easy hook in the paint on an assist from Murray. Duncan Robinson would come down and miss a jumper and Cody Zeller would miss a tip-in opportunity. Aaron Gordon grabbed the rebound and the offense capitalized.

Gordon found Murray, who nailed a three-pointer to extend Denver’s lead to four points with 11 minutes to go before championship glory.

Caleb Martin would answer with a nifty layup to end the 5-0 run. The slugfest would continue.

Jamal Murray passes

Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray, left, looks to pass next to Miami Heat guard Gabe Vincent (2) during the first half of Game 5 of basketball’s NBA Finals, Monday, June 12, 2023, in Denver.  (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

As Denver seemed as though it would pull away, Butler made it a four-point game twice with about 4 minutes to play. He was fouled with 3:21 to go on a controversial call that was upheld after a challenge.


Butler cut the deficit to one point. On the next Heat possession, Butler would show up again with a bucket in the paint. He would be on an 8-0 run by himself before Jokic went back up with 2:22 left.

The game got even tighter but it would come down to offensive rebounding. Murray missed a fadeaway shot and Bruce Brown came to collect and put the shot back up to put Denver up one point in the final seconds.

Nikola Jokic tries to grab the ball

Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler (22) and Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) compete for possession of the ball during the first half of Game 5 of basketball’s NBA Finals, Monday, June 12, 2023, in Denver.  (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

With about 30 seconds left in the game, Butler tried to drive in the paint but was guarded. He tried to pass the ball out but Kentavious Caldwell-Pope would strip it away and deliver two more clutch free throws to seal the game.

Butler finished with 21 points on 5-of-18 shooting. Bam Adebayo had 20 points with 12 rebounds on 9-of-20 from the floor. Max Strus had 12 points but was only 1-of-6 from three. Kyle Lowry had 12 points and Martin had 10 points off the bench.

Miami came into the playoffs as the No. 8 seed and put together massive upset after upset to even get a chance to sniff the Larry O’Brien Trophy. However, the Nuggets proved all year they were a forced to be reckoned with.

Bam Adebayo slams

Miami Heat center Bam Adebayo (13) dunks against the Denver Nuggets during the first half of Game 5 of basketball’s NBA Finals, Monday, June 12, 2023, in Denver.  (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

Denver came to the NBA after the merger with the ABA. The team had only been in one finals overall – coming in 1976 in the ABA. The team lost to the New York Nets in six games.

Now, they can all themselves NBA champions.


“We’re not satisfied with just one,” Denver coach Michael Malone said. “We want more!”

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