Game 5 of the NBA Finals between the Miami Heat and Denver Nuggets ended in a tense 94-89 triumph for the Nuggets, led by Nikola Jokic. The Nuggets overcame poor shooting and a late surge by Miami’s Jimmy Butler to clinch the franchise’s first NBA championship.
Jokic had 28 points and 16 rebounds for the Nuggets and was named the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player, a more significant honour than his two overall MVPs from 2021 and ’22.
He rescued the Nuggets by shooting 12 for 16 from the field on a night when none of his colleagues could score. Denver missed 20 of its first 22 3-point attempts and seven of its first 13 free throws, but still managed to win the series at home.
After trailing by seven points, Butler scored eight consecutive points to help the Heat seize an 87-86 lead with 2:45 remaining. With 1:58 remaining, he made two more free throws to help Miami regain a one-point lead. Then, Bruce Brown scored a tip-in off an offensive rebound to give the Nuggets the advantage for good.
Butler attempted a 3-pointer with 15 seconds remaining, trailing by three points, but missed. Brown’s two free throws placed the game out of reach and gave Denver the championship.
Butler scored 21 points in total.
The Nuggets and their fans could all concur that the aftermath of this ugly and chaotic event was beautiful. The Larry O’Brien Trophy resides in Denver for the first time in the franchise’s 47-year history in the league.
“It was ugly and we couldn’t make shots, but in the end we figured it out,” Jokic stated. “I am just happy that we won the game.”
As coach Erik Spoelstra had vowed, the Heat were a tenacious and tenacious group. However, their marksmanship was also subpar. Bam Adebayo scored 20 points for the Heat, who fired 34% from the field and 25% from deep. Before Butler’s hot streak, he was 2-for-13 for eight points.
The Heat, who were only the second No. 8 seed to reach the finals after surviving a loss in the play-in tournament, insisted they were not interested in consolation prizes.
They performed as if they expected to win, and for a time during this game, which was decided primarily on the ground, it appeared that they would.
The Nuggets, who had previously shot 37.6% from beyond the arc in the series, fired just 18% in this game. They had fourteen turnovers. They were only 13-for-23 from the charity stripe, but Brown and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope each went 4-for-4 down the stretch to help Denver seal the victory.
Jokic received his second foul with 2:51 remaining in the first quarter and joined Aaron Gordon on the sideline.
The remainder of the half was marked by hesitation on both ends of the court by the Nuggets. Despite shooting 6.7% from 3-point range — the worst first half in finals history (10-shot minimum) — they trailed by only seven points.