In a thrilling Game 5 showdown, the Denver Nuggets made history by clinching their first-ever NBA championship, ending a 47-year title drought. The hero of the night and the entire Finals series was none other than the remarkable Nikola Jokic, who was deservedly crowned the Finals MVP. This achievement was marked by Jokic’s unique feat of becoming the first player in NBA history to lead the playoffs in total points, rebounds, and assists.
On that momentous Monday night (13 June), the Denver Nuggets triumphed over the Miami Heat with a final score of 94-89. Nikola Jokic once again took center stage, delivering a dazzling performance with 28 points, 16 rebounds, and four assists. His consistency throughout the series was truly exceptional, as he averaged 30.2 points, 14.0 rebounds, and 7.2 assists, including two triple-doubles.
Jokic’s journey to this MVP accolade is all the more remarkable considering he holds the distinction of being the lowest-drafted player ever to receive this prestigious award. After the victorious Game 5, Jokic humbly commented, “It’s good, it’s good. The job is done. We can go home now.” He also underscored the unity and camaraderie within the team, stating, “We are not rooting for ourselves. We’re rooting for the guy next to us. This is a great group of people, a great group of teammates. This group is amazing.”
In contrast, the Miami Heat, an improbable second No. 8 seed in NBA history to reach the Finals, struggled with their shooting, managing only a disappointing 34 percent from the field. Jimmy Butler, their star player, had a tough night, going 5-of-18 from the floor, even though he led his team with 21 points. Miami’s Tyler Herro, who had been sidelined with a hand injury since mid-April, was cleared to play but did not make an appearance in the game.
Despite the Nuggets’ championship win, it wasn’t a flawless performance. Denver struggled from behind the arc, shooting just 5-of-28, marking the third-worst three-point shooting percentage (17.9 percent) by any team in NBA Finals history. Their free-throw shooting wasn’t much better, as they made 13-of-23 attempts. However, Denver’s dominance throughout the postseason was evident, boasting a record of 16-4 and losing only once at home (Game 2 of the Finals). Their four playoff losses were the fewest by an NBA champion since the 2017 Golden State Warriors.
While Nikola Jokic was undoubtedly the star of the night, the Nuggets also had key contributions from other players. Michael Porter Jr. stepped up with 16 points and 13 rebounds, making a significant impact. Jamal Murray had 14 points, eight rebounds, and eight assists, solidifying his status as one of the key players in the Finals. He joined an elite group of just four players in Finals history to average 20 points and 10 assists.
As the celebrations ensued, Denver’s head coach, Michael Malone, had his eyes set on a bright future for the team. Malone, who has been at the helm since 2015, spoke of the team’s aspirations beyond a single championship, saying, “The last step after a champion is to be a dynasty, so we’re not satisfied.” He expressed his confidence in the young and talented players in the Nuggets’ locker room, emphasizing that their impressive 16 playoff victories showcased their potential on the grandest stage in basketball.
Erik Spoelstra, the head coach of the Miami Heat, graciously acknowledged the Nuggets’ superiority in the series, stating, “There’s no regrets on our end. Sometimes, you just get beat. Denver was just the better basketball team in this series.”
In the end, the 2023 NBA Finals will be remembered as the moment when the Denver Nuggets broke a long-standing championship drought, with Nikola Jokic etching his name in the annals of NBA history as the first player to lead in points, rebounds, and assists during the playoffs. The Nuggets’ journey to their first title was a remarkable feat of teamwork, determination, and resilience, leaving a lasting legacy in the world of basketball.