NBA Denver Nuggets clutch first championship 56 years after foundation affirming during the series that defence wins championships
The Denver Nuggets beat the Miami Heat 94-89 on Monday to bring a first NBA title to Mile High City, with Serbian big man Nikola Jokic scoring 28 points and being named the Most Valuable Player of the Finals.
With a raucous capacity crowd packed into Ball Arena ready to celebrate, the Nuggets ended a 47-year championship wait by taking the best-of-seven series 4-1.
Once again the Nuggets were led by Jokic, who hit for a double-double of 28 points and 16 rebounds to cap a dominating postseason performance.
“The job is done, we can go home now,” said Jokic, whose trophy case also includes two NBA MVP Awards. “It was an amazing effort by the team.
“That is why basketball is a fun sport, it is a live thing, you cannot say this going to happen, there are so many factors.
“I’m just happy we won the game.”
Michael Porter Jr. contributed 16 points and 13 rebounds to the Denver cause while Canadian Jamal Murray chipped in with 14 points.
Miami started smartly, jumping ahead 5-0 before the Nuggets shifted into gear and went on a 12-0 run, whipping the crowd into frenzy.
But after a timeout the refocused Heat went on a 11-2 run of their own to retake lead as a wild opening quarter ended with Miami up 24-22.
In the second quarter turnovers and poor shooting continued to plague the Nuggets as they went a woeful 1-15 from beyond the arc while the resilient Heat held steady in the Ball Arena pressure cooker, taking a 51-44 advantage into the break.
The Nuggets came out with urgency in a bruising third quarter that finished with the Heat clinging to a 71-70 lead.
Hoping to send the series back to Miami for Game Six, Butler tried to come to the rescue late in the fourth scoring eight consecutive points, two free throws putting the Heat ahead 89-88 with just under two minutes remaining.
But the Nuggets would not be denied, a Bruce Brown lay-up giving Denver a 90-89 lead they would never let go.
Standing on the podium celebrating a first championship, Nuggets coach Michael Malone took the opportunity to fire up supporters even more, telling them more titles were on the way.
“I’ve got news for everyone out there,” Malone said. “We are not satisfied with one.”
Jimmy Butler led Miami with 21 points.
The eighth-seeded Heat had defied the odds throughout the postseason, taking out the Milwaukee Bucks, New York Knicks and Boston Celtics, but the challenge facing them on Monday was a near impossible one.
Of the 36 teams that have fallen behind 3-1 in an NBA Finals only one, the 2016 Cleveland Cavaliers, came back to claim the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy.