DENVER (AP) — Nikola Jokic led Denver to its first NBA title in team history Monday night as the Nuggets overcame terrible shots and a late shot from Miami’s Jimmy Butler to push past the Heat in Game 5 and a frantic 94-89 – bring in victory.
Jokic scored 28 points and 16 rebounds for the Nuggets and was named NBA Finals MVP — a trophy that’s certainly more meaningful to him than the two MVPs he won combined in 2021 and 2022.
He saved the nuggets and hit 12 for 16 from the floor on a night none of his teammates could find the basket. Denver missed 20 of their first 22 3-pointers and seven of their first 13 free throws, but somehow figured out how to wrap up the streak at home.
Butler scored eight points in a row to give the Heat an 87-86 lead with 2:45 left after they were seven points behind. He made two more free throws with 1:58 left to give Miami a one-point lead. Then Bruce Brown hit an offensive rebound and tip-in to give the Nuggets the lead.
With 15 seconds to go, Butler was three down, grabbing a 3 but missing. Brown grabbed two free throws to put the game out of reach and secure the title for Denver.
Butler finished the race with 21 points.
It was an ugly, hectic affair, but the aftermath was something the Nuggets and their fans all agreed was beautiful. Denver is home to the Larry O’Brien Trophy for the first time in the franchise’s 47-year history in the league.
“It was ugly and we couldn’t take any shots but we figured it out in the end,” said Jokic. “I’m just glad we won the game.”
As coach Erik Spoelstra had promised, the Heat were a brave, tenacious bunch. But her shooting wasn’t great either. Bam Adebayo had 20 for the heat, but Miami scored 34% from the floor and 25% from 3. By the time Butler busted, he was 2 for 13 and eight points.
The Heat, surviving a loss in the play-in tournament and finishing second at number 8 in the finals, insisted they weren’t looking for consolation prizes.
They played like they expected to win and for a while it looked like they were going to win in a game that was played more on the ground than in the air.
The Nuggets, who averaged 37.6% from three hits in the series, averaged 18% this game. They made 14 turnovers. They went off the line just 13-23, though Brown and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope ended up 4-4 while Denver gambled away the win.
With 2:51 left in the first quarter, Jokic got his second foul and sat next to Aaron Gordon on the bench.
For the rest of the half, the Nuggets were cautious on both sides of the field. Somehow, after 6.7% from three shots – the worst first half in Finals history (10 shots minimum) – they were just seven points behind.