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Nuggets extinguish Heat 94-89 to win 1st title in franchise history

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On a historic night at Ball Arena, the Denver Nuggets clinched their first NBA Championship in franchise history with a hard-fought victory over the Miami Heat in Game 5 of the 2023 NBA Finals.

From the opening tip, the energy in the arena was electric as both teams came out firing on all cylinders. The Nuggets, led by superstar center and two-time MVP Nikola Jokic and explosive point guard Jamal Murray, were determined to close out the series in front of their home fans, while the Heat, led by fiery duo Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, were looking to force a Game 6 back in Miami.

The first quarter was a back-and-forth slugfest, with both teams trading more defensive stops than buckets. Bam Adebayo opened the game with a thunderous jam. Between the two teams, only seven field goals were made during the first half of the quarter.

By the end of the quarter, Jokic, Murray and Nuggets forward Aaron Gordon racked up two fouls each, forcing Nuggets Head Coach Michael Malone to run alternative lineups for the remainder of the first half. Fans in Ball Arena erupted with displeasure over the early officiating move.

Miami closed out the quarter up a bucket, 24-22.

In the second quarter, the Nuggets came out with a renewed sense of urgency and quickly tied the game. Despite this, Adebayo followed up a dominant first quarter with more physicality. Adebayo drew fouls and got to the charity stripe. Jokic checked back into the game early in the second quarter after Gordon picked up his third foul.

The presence of Jokic’s return was immediately felt, helping the Nuggets pick up the pace and cut down the deficit.

Game 1 of the NBA Finals, Denver Nuggets NBA Championship
Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) reaches for a rebound next to Miami Heat center Bam Adebayo during the second half of Game 1 of basketball’s NBA Finals, Thursday, June 1, 2023, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey, Pool)

Butler was a nonfactor for most of the first quarter but quickly flipped the switch. The Miami Heat forward began attacking the basket and getting to the line after an abhorrent 2-11 from the field.

Veteran point guard for the Heat Kyle Lowry put the Nuggets on notice with a light show of three-pointers. The Heat closed out the first half with a score of 51-44.

During halftime, onlookers wondered if the Nuggets’ nerves were getting the best of them. Some fans believed that the Nuggets would have to finish this in Miami. Despite this, the energy in Ball Arena remained thunderous.

The third quarter was when the Nuggets began to pull away. Jokic continued to dominate inside with tough layups and bank shots. Role players such as Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Bruce Brown were having the game of their lives.

Brown utilized his unguardable floater, as he had done all season long. Caldwell-Pope had a bevy of defensive stops, netting two steals and three blocks.

The fourth quarter was a tense affair, as the Heat refused to go down without a fight. The helter-skelter style of play for the first three quarters climaxed in the fourth. Both teams committed multiple turnovers, wasteful possessions, and all-around nervous basketball.

Nuggets veteran center De’Andre Jordan exclaimed, “Settle down, settle down!” as he watched his young teammates play without chemistry and patience.

“Breathe!” said Coach Malone, following up on Jordan’s suggestion.

The fourth quarter was not the prettiest, but it was more than enough for the win. Defensive plays from Brown and Caldwell-Pope were enough to extinguish the Heat.

Denver Nuggets NBA Championship, Game 5 NBA Finals
The Larry O’Brien NBA Championship trophy prior to the start of Game 5 of the NBA Finals at Ball Arena in Denver, Co. on June 12, 2023. (Photo/Ron Taylor)

As the final seconds ticked off the clock, the crowd at Ball Arena erupted in celebration as the Nuggets made history by winning their first NBA Championship. It was a fitting end to a thrilling series and a moment that Denver fans will never forget.

Jokic finished with a game-high 28 points, 16 rebounds and four assists, netting him Finals MVP honors. Forward Michael Porter Jr. was also a huge factor on the glass, putting up 16 and 13 rebounds.

For the Heat, Butler led the way with a measly 21 points and three rebounds, while Adebayo tacked on 20 points and 12 rebounds.

Ron Taylor, a Nuggets fan originally from Indiana, was in attendance for Game 5.

“This win will always be the most special one,” Taylor said. “As a season ticket holder, I was able to share this journey with so many friends and family. I am looking forward to the (Nuggets’) dynasty.”

Denver Nuggets Superfan and season ticket holder Ron Taylor amped up for Game 5 of the 2023 NBA Finals on June 12, 2023 at Ball Arena in Denver, Co. (Photo/Ron Taylor)

The Nuggets superfan got to soak in all the downtown Denver festivities immediately after the championship win.

“The city was electric. Everyone was basking in the victory and celebrating together. It was an unbelievable feeling,” Taylor said.

Fans got a preview of the parade planned for June 15. Gordon and Caldwell-Pope celebrated with fans in the streets as if they had all known one another their entire lives.

Finals MVP Nikola Jokic was asked about what this win means to him. Being the Joker, he playfully said, “The job is done. We can all go home now.”

Contact multi-media staff writer Noral Parham III at (317)-762-7846 or e-mail at noralp@indyrecorder.com. Follow him on Twitter @NoralParham.

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