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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Nikola Jokic leads Denver Nuggets to first NBA Finals title

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Denver – The Denver Nuggets captured their first title in 47 NBA seasons on Monday, defeating the Miami Heat 94-89 behind 28 points and 16 rebounds from Nikola Jokic.

The Nuggets won the best-of-seven NBA Finals 4-1 to bring the Mile High City an NBA crown as a sellout crowd roared in delight while delivering Miami’s third finals loss in 10 seasons.

“I’ve got news for everybody out there. We’re not satisfied with one,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said afterwards. “We want more.”

The championship filled the final gap in the impressive resume of Serbian star Jokic, a two-time NBA Most Valuable Player and five-time All-Star center in his eighth NBA campaign.

Two days after countryman Novak Djokovic won the French Open for his record 23rd Grand Slam tennis crown, Jokic was named the NBA Finals MVP.

He delivered on a night when the team struggled with shooting futility but blanked Miami for more than five minutes of the fourth quarter.

“It was amazing effort by the team,” Jokic said. “It was an ugly game. We couldn’t make shots. But at the end we figured it out, how to defend and we scored 90 points. That’s why we won. I’m just happy we won the game.

“It’s good. The job is done and we can go home now.”

Denver was the playoff top seed in the Western Conference while the Heat had to win a play-in game just to reach the playoffs but then upset NBA wins leader Milwaukee, New York and Boston to advance to the finals.

Michael Porter Jr. added 16 points and 13 rebounds and Jamal Murray added 14 points, eight rebounds and eight asists for the Nuggets.

“We’re winning for the guys next to us,” Jokic said. “That’s why this means so much. Everything this year is amazing. We believe in each other.”

Jimmy Butler led Miami with 21 points while Bam Adebayo added 20 and 12 rebounds.

With their seasons on the line, players brought intensity and physical defending over the final minutes to create an electric atmosphere inside Ball Arena.

Jamal Murray’s jumper gave Denver an 81-76 lead with 6:43 remaining while the Heat began the fourth quarter hitting only 2-for-14 from the floor and going scoreless for more than five minutes.

Butler and Jokic traded hoops and Butler followed with two free throws to give Miami an 89-88 lead.

Bruce Brown answered with a rebound basket to put Denver ahead 90-88 and Max Strus missed a 3-pointer for Miami to give Denver the ball wih 1:09 remaining.

Jokic and Gordon missed shots and Strus rebounded for Miami.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope stole a pass by Butler and sank two clutch free throws with 24 seconds remaining to give Denver a 92-89 edge.

Butler missed a 3-pointer, Brown grabbed a rebound for Denver and then made two free throws to seal the victory with 14 seconds remaining.

AFP

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