Denver Nuggets v Miami Heat
Denver Wins 3-1
Game 5: Nuggets 94, Heat 89 - Nuggets win their first NBA Championship!
Game 4: Nuggets 108, Heat 95
Game 3: Nuggets 109, Heat 94.
Game 2: Heat 111, Nuggets 108.
Game 1 - Heat 93, Nuggets 104.
Nuggets take home 1st NBA title in rugged 94-89 win over Heat
DENVER (AP) — Confetti flying in Denver. The Nuggets sharing hugs while passing around the NBA championship trophy.
Those scenes that, for almost a half-century, seemed impossible, then more recently started feeling inevitable, finally turned into reality Monday night.
The Nuggets outlasted the Miami Heat 94-89 in an ugly, frantic Game 5 that did nothing to derail Nikola Jokic, who bailed out his teammates with 28 points and 16 rebounds on a night when nothing else seemed to work.
Jokic became the first player in history to lead the league in points (600), rebounds (269) and assists (190) in a single postseason. Not surprisingly, he won the Bill Russell trophy as the NBA Finals MVP — an award that certainly has more meaning to him than the two overall MVPs he won in 2021 and ’22 and the one that escaped him this year.
“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.”
Denver's clincher was a gruesome grind.
Unable to shake the tenacious Heat or their own closing-night jitters, the Nuggets missed 20 of their first 22 3-pointers. They missed seven of their first 13 free throws. They overcame that to take a late seven-point lead, only to see Miami’s Jimmy Butler go off. He scored eight straight points to give the Heat a one-point lead with 2:45 left.
Butler made two free throws with 1:58 remaining to help Miami regain a one-point lead. Then, Bruce Brown got an offensive rebound and tip-in to give the Nuggets an edge they wouldn't give up.
Trailing by three with 15 seconds left, Butler jacked up a 3, but missed it. Brown and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope made two free throws each down the stretch to clinch the title for Denver.
Butler finished with 21 points.
“Those last three or four minutes felt like a scene out of a movie,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Two teams in the center of the ring throwing haymaker after haymaker, and it’s not necessarily shot making. It’s the efforts.”
Grueling as it was, the aftermath was something the Nuggets and their fans could all agree was beautiful. There were fireworks exploding outside Ball Arena at the final buzzer. Denver is the home of the Larry O’Brien Trophy for the first time in the franchise’s 47 years in the league.
“The fans in this town are unbelievable,” said team owner Stan Kroenke, who also owns the Colorado Avalanche, the team that won its third Stanley Cup last year. “It means a lot to us to get this done.”
The Heat were, as Spoelstra promised, a gritty, tenacious bunch. But their shooting wasn’t great, either. Miami shot 34% from the floor and 25% from 3. Until Butler went off, he was 2 for 13 for eight points. Bam Adebayo finished with 20 points.
The Heat, who survived a loss in the play-in tournament and became only the second No. 8 seed to make the finals, insisted they weren’t into consolation prizes.
They played like they expected to win, and for a while during this game, which was settled as much by players diving onto the floor as sweet-looking jump shots, it looked like they would.
The Nuggets, who came in shooting 37.6% from 3 for the series, shot 18% in this one. They committed 14 turnovers.
The tone was set with 2:51 left in the first quarter, when Jokic got his second foul and joined Aaron Gordon on the bench. Jeff Green and Jamal Murray, who finished with 14 points and eight assists on an off night, joined them there, too.
It made the Nuggets tentative on both sides of the court for the rest of the half. Somehow, after shooting 6.7% from 3 — the worst first half in the history of the finals (10-shot minimum) they only trailed by seven.
True to the Nuggets' personality, they kept pressing, came at their opponent in waves and figured out how to win a game that went against their type. Their beautiful game turned into a slugfest, but they figured it out nonetheless.
“What I was most proud about is, throughout the game, if your offense is not working and your shots are not falling, you have to dig in on the defensive end,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said.
It felt almost perfect that an unheralded and once-chubby second-round draft pick from Serbia would be the one to lift Denver to the top of a league that, for decades, has been dominated by superstars, first-round draft picks and players who lead the world in sneaker and jersey sales.
Over their near five-decade stay in the league, the Nuggets have been the epitome of a lovable NBA backbencher – at times entertaining, adorned by rainbows on their uniforms and headlined by colorful characters on the floor and bench. But never quite good enough to break through against the biggest stars and better teams to the east, west and south of them.
Before this season, there were only two teams founded before 1980 – the Nuggets and Clippers – that had never been to an NBA Finals. The Nuggets took their name off that list, then joined San Antonio as the second original ABA team to capture the NBA’s biggest prize. The other two ABAers, the Pacers and Nets, have been to the finals but lost.
It was the Joker’s blossoming into a do-everything force that made the Nuggets a team to watch. Not everybody did. A shift to winning couldn’t change Denver’s location on the map – in a weird time zone in flyover territory – and it didn’t shift everyone’s view of the Nuggets.
Even in Denver.
There’s little doubt that this has always been a Broncos-first sort of town. No single Denver victory will outshine the day in 1998 when John Elway broke through and that team’s owner, Pat Bowlen, held the Lombardi Trophy high and declared: “This one’s for John!”
But this one? It won't take a back seat to much. It’s for every Dan (Issel), David (Thompson), Doug (Moe) or Dikembe (Mutombo) who ever came up short or got passed over for a newer, shinier model with more glitter and more stars.
For the first time in 47 seasons, nobody in the NBA shines brighter than the Nuggets.
“You live vicariously through these guys,” said Denver great LaPhonso Ellis, as he pointed to the big scoreboard announcing the Nuggets as champions. “And to see that there, ‘2023 NBA Champions’ here in Denver, that's so cool, and I'm honored to be a part of it."
By EDDIE PELLS, AP National Writer | 6/13/23
Nuggets become first NBA champion in this format to not face a top-3 seed
In terms of opponent seeding, Denver’s run to this NBA championship was unlike any other since the league went to the 16-team playoff format 40 seasons ago.
The Nuggets’ road to this title saw them beat No. 8 Minnesota in the Western Conference quarterfinals, No. 4 Phoenix in the West semifinals, the seventh-seeded Los Angeles Lakers in the West finals and then the East’s No. 8 seed in Miami in the NBA Finals.
The Nuggets — who were the No. 1 seed in the West — are the first champion in the 16-team format that didn’t have to play a No. 1, No. 2 or No. 3 seed on their way to the title. Only six of the last 39 champions in this format got through the playoffs by facing just one top-three seed along the way.
Miami — which ousted East No. 1 seed Milwaukee in Round 1 this year — was bidding to be the fifth team in this format that defeated both No. 1 seeds on their way to a championship. The teams that got that done: Toronto in 2019, the Lakers in both 2001 and 2002, and Houston in 1995.
That Rockets team had — by far — the toughest road, in terms of seeds faced, on the way to a title in this format. Houston was the No. 6 seed out of the West that season and had to beat No. 3 Utah in Round 1, No. 2 Phoenix in Round 2, No. 1 San Antonio for the West title and East No. 1 Orlando in the finals.
That was the Houston team that prompted Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich, now a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame, to famously proclaim “Don’t ever underestimate the heart of a champion” when those NBA Finals concluded.
LEBRON TAKES OVER
Barring some unforeseen comebacks, the Los Angeles Lakers' LeBron James will start next season as the oldest player in the NBA.
Udonis Haslem was the oldest in the league this season; his 20-year career, all with Miami, is now complete. Haslem turned 43 last week.
Golden State’s Andre Iguodala has also said he is retiring; Iguodala is 39.
That leaves James as the new holder of the oldest-player crown. The NBA's all-time scoring leader — he passed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for that distinction this season — turns 39 in December.
Haslem was the fifth-oldest player to ever appear in an NBA game —- and the oldest to play in a playoff game, when he got into a Heat game last week at the age of 42 years, 363 days.
Vince Carter played until he was 43, as did Robert Parish. Kevin Willis appeared in five games late in the 2006-07 season as a 44-year-old.
The oldest player in NBA history is little-known Nat Hickey, who was two days shy of his 46th birthday when he played his last game on Jan. 28, 1948. Hickey appeared in only two games in his brief career as a player-coach with the Providence Steamrollers; his first was the day before his finale. He scored two points in his playing career.
JOKIC THE SIXTH
Denver's Nikola Jokic — the pride of Serbia — won the NBA Finals MVP award, and it's the sixth time that an international player claimed that honor.
Houston's Hakeem Olajuwon (Nigeria) won finals MVP in 1994 and 1995. San Antonio's Tony Parker (France) won it in 2007, Dallas' Dirk Nowitzki (Germany) won it in 2011 and Milwaukee's Giannis Antetokounmpo (Greece) won it in 2021.
It's not exactly a rule, but it's generally assumed that the NBA finalists will find their way into the Christmas Day lineup the next season.
Should Denver be picked to play on Dec. 25 next season, it would be the fourth time in the last five years that the Nuggets are part of the league's holiday quintupleheader. If Miami gets picked, it would be the second Heat appearance on Christmas since 2015; the last Heat game on Dec. 25 was against New Orleans in 2020, that game getting played in an empty arena in Miami because of the pandemic.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra is 8-0 in Christmas games.
Denver becomes the 20th current franchise now with an NBA championship.
The Los Angeles Lakers and Boston are tied with 17 apiece. Golden State, Chicago, San Antonio, Philadelphia, Detroit, Miami, New York, Houston, Milwaukee, Cleveland, Atlanta, Washington, Oklahoma City, Portland, Toronto, Sacramento and Dallas also have championships in their franchise histories -- although not all of those titles were won while playing in their current city.
Denver’s win leaves Phoenix, Utah, Brooklyn, Orlando, Indiana, Charlotte, Memphis, Minnesota, New Orleans and the Los Angeles Clippers as the 10 current franchises still waiting for a first NBA championship.
Denver, as would be expected, claimed the biggest share of the NBA playoff pool this season. The Nuggets got $7,129,558, or about 26% of the money that the league distributes to playoff teams.
Miami will collect $4,837,547. Boston will get the third-biggest share, earning $2,217,347.
By TIM REYNOLDS, AP Basketball Writer | 6/13/23
Our Pre Finals Write Up
Anyone predicting a Denver versus Miami NBA Finals before the season started - or even after it finished - would now be sitting on a small fortune, but that’s exactly what we’ve got after the Heat eventually got the better of outright favourites Boston to win the East.
For a while, a double sweep looked on the cards, and the Nuggets finished off the Lakers in double quick time, but Miami took the longer route in their Conference Final, going 3-0 up, being pegged back to 3-3 before yet another plot twist saw them go to Boston and smash the Celtics in game 7.
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As 8th seeds, Miami have been underdogs in every round, and of course they start as dogs once again in the Finals against the Western champs and number 1 seed. Not only are they up against a better team holding home court advantage once again, the Nuggets will also have a huge rest advantage of seven days over the Heat, who flew straight from game 7 on the road in Boston to Denver for game 1 of the Finals. Worryingly for Miami fans, teams that have a rest disadvantage of five or more days before facing a game 1 of the NBA Finals on the road are 1 and 8 in game 1’s, and 1 and 8 overall.
The Heat have been counted out before in this postseason run only to shock the basketball world, but let’s have a look at the numbers to see whether this fairy tale run can continue.
Miami’s shooters have been on fire, and after that game 7 win they now rank number 1 in the postseason in 3-point shooting, having finished 27th in the regular season.
Some of that will be variance evening out, and they could slump again, but this was a decent shooting team in 2021/22, and having been one Jimmy Butler 3-pointer away from making the Finals last season, the shooting numbers in the regular season look abnormally low - remember they averaged a League last 109.5ppg in the regular season.
Having shot 50% or better only 3 times in the 82-game season, Miami shot 50%+ 3 times in the Celtics series as the likes of Caleb Martin, Gabe Vincent, Max Strus and back in favour Duncan Robinson lit it up. There’s even a rumour the sharpest of the Miami sharpshooters, Tyler Herro, could be ready to comeback from the broken hand he suffered in the 1st game of the 1st round by game 3 of the Finals. With Denver number 2 in 3-point shooting this postseason, we could be in line for some exciting shootouts.
While Miami’s shooting provides some grounds for positivity, there are many more reasons to predict a first NBA title for the Denver Nuggets.
Nikola Jokic averaged a triple double in the Lakers sweep, and has posted 8 of them in 15 postseason games so far. What’s more, he’s a nightmare match-up for the Miami Heat, who have a good defensive center in Bam Adebayo, but one who struggles against the real behemoth opponents. Joker is just about the worst match-up for Bam.
While Denver’s star finds himself in a great match-up, Miami’s does not, with Butler likely to be up against Aaron Gordon in this series. While no one can stop Jimmy Buckets, especially playoff Jimmy Buckets, Gordon has the size, strength and defensive chops to make life difficult.
Denver have another advantage in the sidekick stakes. Jamal Murray has never been an All Star and is playing like someone who wants to know why. While Joker has taken the headlines, averaging 30 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists in the playoffs, Murray has quietly put up 28, 5 and 6.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, who has once again confirmed his reputation as one of the best play callers around, has often turned to zone defense to disrupt opponents, but again, Denver are a nightmare match-up there, averaging 1.21 points per possession during the regular season and playoffs when faced with a zone, 2nd in the NBA.
Spo uses the zone to hide bad defenders like Robinson, but in this series that idea may have to be shelved with Jokic happy to play with three shooters and Gordon slashing to the basket.
Turning all that into betting opportunities, it might be an idea to sell Robinson’s props such as threes and points, with him likely to be benched more, and if Miami start to try and double team Joker, look for him to look to pass more and shoot less, going over in assists and under in points, until adjustments are made.
If Kevin Love, a DNP Coach’s Decision by the end of the Boston series, comes back to provide a bit of size, he will be asked to try and make Jokic work while staying on the perimeter shooting treys, while Jimmy, who hit a bit of a slump in the second half of the Celtics series, could be another to bet against as a fresh Gordon looks to lock him down in opening games.
Without home advantage, Miami have to win at least one game in Denver if they’re to win the title, but they’ve not won in the rarefied air of Mile High City since 2016, while the Nuggets are unbeaten at home in this year’s playoffs. Even though they’ve won every game 1 on the road in this year’s playoffs, with the schedule, rest disadvantage and injury woes, that looks nearly impossible this time.
The Miami Heat story is a great one, and they’ve upset the odds time and again in this run. But Denver have so many advantages - rest, talent, size, home court - that the 6.0 available for a Nuggets sweep is too big to ignore.
RECOMMENDATION: 2pts Nuggets win 4-0 at 6.00
UPDATE: Nuggets win 4-1
Of course the Finals MVP market is dominated by Jokic, who is short odds on to add that award to the two regular season trophies he already owns. While that looks by far the likeliest outcome, the 15.00 available for Murray is too big. If he can put up a couple of 40-point performances in what could well be a short series, the Canadian could win MVP.
RECOMMENDATION: 1pt Murray Finals MVP at 15.00