After 47 seasons, the Denver Nuggets won their first NBA title Monday night at Ball Arena, beating the eighth-seeded Miami Heat 94-89, winning the title in five games. The Nuggets were favored to make a title run from the start with high expectations from its dynamic duo, star players Nikola Jokić and Jamal Murray. The championship title is a first for the franchise since they joined the league before the 1976-1977 season.
Two-time MVP Nikola Jokić led his team in the win with 28 points and 16 rebounds. He was selected MVP of the Finals and is the first big man to win the Bill Russell NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award since Shaquille O’Neal hoisted the trophy in 2002 with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. had 16 points and 13 boards, and guard Jamal Murray contributed 14 points.
“It was an amazing effort by the team. It was an ugly game. We couldn’t make shots, but in the end, we figured out how to defend,” Jokić said.
Nuggets head coach Michael Malone could not praise Jokić enough, calling him a “great person.” Following the victory, Malone spoke to reporters about Jokić:
“He’s a great husband, father and son, and brother. And on the basketball court, he has proven time and time again that he’s the best player in the NBA. He’s our MVP, we love him, and we’re thankful that he’s wearing a Nuggets’ uniform,” Malone said.
Murray could not contain his emotions as he savored the victory. He was sidelined for a year with an injury suffered against Golden State in 2021. Murray vowed to “come back even stronger than before.” Recalling his efforts to rehabilitate his leg as he celebrated with his team, Murray said:
“Everything was hitting at once,” Murray said. “From the journey to the celebration with the guys to enjoying the moment, to looking back on the rehab, to looking back at myself as a kid, as the other viewer, looking from the crowd in or from the camera lens in, and now looking back at them.” “It was a lot,” he said, explaining the tears that came in that moment. “I couldn’t hold it in.”
The Heat’s Bam Adebayo led the scoring for the team with 20 points and 12 rebounds. Heat star Jimmy Butler struggled early but finished the night with 21 points and five assists. The Heat have fallen in the Finals for the second time in the past four seasons.
Butler did not make excuses for the loss; instead, he told reporters that he was “fine, there was zero pain (he injured his ankle in Game 1 against the Knicks) and no excuse.”
“You never know what the team is going to look like next year, the year after that,”
Butler said. “I’m just grateful. I learned so much. They taught me so much. I wish I could have got it done for these guys because they definitely deserve it.”
Denver’s future for more championship titles looks bright as the team is young, and core group members have at least two years remaining on their contracts. Jokić is 28, Murray is 26, and Michael Porter Jr. is 24. Denver’s coach Malone said best as the Nuggets look forward: “We want more…we want more.”