Denver Nuggets defeat Miami Heat 94-89 in Game 5, winning their first NBA championship in franchise history on June 12, 2023. Photo courtesy of Darryl Jacobs

DENVER – Growing up in the 1970’s and watching the NBA and ABA, the Denver Rockets, later the Nuggets, were one of those ABA teams I loved watching more than most.

Being able to cover game 5 of this year’s NBA Finals at Ball Arena, and thinking back when I was a kid watching the Ron Boone’s, Dan Issel, Bobby Jones to the “Skywalker” David Thompson, Alex English, Kiki VanDeWeghe,  and later the Fat Lever’s, Dikembe Mutombo, Carmelo Anthony and Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, this franchise always possesses some of best talents in both the ABA and NBA but never to win an ABA or NBA Championship. 

Welcome to the era of Nikola Jokic and Jamaal Murray which undoubtedly will go down in history as the best era in Denver Nuggets franchise history.

In the biggest game in the history of the Nuggets franchise, Jamaal Murray, Nikola Jokic and their teammates answered the call for history by defeating the Miami Heat 94-89 in Game 5, winning the series 4-1 and winning their first NBA championship in franchise history on Monday night.

From the opening tip Monday night of Game 5 of the NBA Finals, the Nuggets missed 20 of their first 22 3-point attempts, but found ways to come up with championship-winning plays over the last five minutes to bring home the Larry O’Brien Trophy for the first time in the franchise’s 47 years of existence.

Jokic’s basket inside with about 2:24 left and Bruce Brown putback with 1:29 along with Kentavious Caldwell steal off a Jimmy Butler errand pass with 27 seconds left in the game, the Nuggets were able to make big play after big play in a hard-fought 94-89 win over the Miami Heat at Ball Arena in Denver Colorado.

“The job is done, and we can go home now,” said Jokic, who completed a memorable postseason for the ages by scoring 19 of his 28 points in the second half and grabbed 16 rebounds to go along with four assists on the night while winning finals MVP honors.   

“They are a great team. … An amazing team that I respect a lot,” Jokic said of the Heat. “It was an ugly game; we couldn’t make shots. But in the end, we figured out how to defend. They scored 89 points, and that’s how we won the game.”

His partner, Murray, scored some big baskets late, scoring 10 of his 14 points in the second half along with eight assists and eight rebounds.

“All the hard work, all the sacrifice, all the dedication, all culminated with us winning a championship,” Denver coach Michael Malone said on the championship podium. “But I got news for everybody out there: We’re not satisfied with one. We want more. We want more.”

Michael Porter Jr after scoring only a total of 18 points in the previous three games and shooting just 3-for-22 from behind the 3-point line in the Finals, Porter Jr. found his game, delivering 16 points and 13 rebounds. It could not have come at a better time for the Nuggets, the Heat made everything a struggle for the Nuggets in the first half leading at the half 51-44.

As it has been throughout the playoffs, the Nuggets were more than just Jokic and Murray. 

Aaron Gordon timely block on Kyle Lowery jumper with 6:56 left in the 4th; with the Nuggets only up by three points, signified Denver and what they had to do in order to defeat the spirited Miami Heat. Then Caldwell-Pope (2 NBA Titles to his credit) knocked down the Nuggets fourth 3 ball on night to give the Nuggets an 86-79 lead with 4:05 left in the game.  

“I feel really fortunate that our journey has been one of patience, one of drafting really well and developing those players,” Malone said Sunday, before Game 5. “And then adding the right pieces around them.

This championship stamps Jokic status to most as the best player in the NBA.  Even after winning two regular-season MVP awards, some still doubt whether he is the best player in the game. Jokic finished the postseason with a combined 52.9 points, rebounds and assists per game, the second most in NBA history, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Note: Darryl Jacobs is a native of Paterson, New Jersey and has been working as a college basketball analyst/commentator with ESPN Networks for the past five years.

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