Denver Nuggets win first-ever NBA championship in Finals against Miami Heat after coach ‘cried repeatedly’ ahead of game
THE Denver Nuggets have won the 2023 NBA Finals on a historic night for Mile High basketball.
Denver beat the Miami Heat 94-89 in Monday’s Game 5, claiming the franchise’s first-ever NBA championship.
Intentionally or not, Nuggets head coach Michael Malone revealed in his pregame press conference how tremendous a pressure he felt before the Monday matchup.
Asked how he slept the previous night knowing he could become an NBA champion in circa 24 hours, Malone said: “I slept like a baby.
“Woke up every two hours and cried.”
The Nuggets had undisputedly been the best team of the postseason, beating Kevin Durant’s Phoenix Suns and sweeping the LeBron James-led Los Angeles Lakers along the way.
Also, Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray just became the first NBA duo to record 30-point triple-doubles in the same game, firing Denver to a 3-1 series lead on Friday.
Yet sleep eluded Malone before Game 5 – such was the magnitude of the clash that could close out the Finals, enshrining the 2022-23 Nuggets in NBA history.
As expected, the Heat did everything they could to prolong the series.
They even teased Tyler Herro’s return two months after the ex-Sixth Man of the Year fractured his hand in the first playoff round, only to keep the sharpshooter on the bench for the entire game.
Once the ball was up, Miami responded to Denver’s early eight-point lead by outscoring the hosts 43-26 until halftime.
The Nuggets looked shaken, putting in the worst shooting effort from deep (1-for-15) in any half of an NBA Finals game over the last 26 years.
But the Joker stepped up after the break, carrying Denver to the promised land of NBA champions.
Serbia’s Sombor-born superstar hustled on both ends of the floor as his teammates struggled to make the ball swish.
Usually composed and quiet, Jokic even screamed and shouted on the bench as he tried to galvanize his Nuggets co-stars during a second-half timeout.
Despite Jimmy Butler’s heroics, Denver eventually prevailed after a tough, gritty game that evoked memories of the 1990s NBA.
The Larry O’Brien trophy reached perhaps the highest of heights on Monday, checking in from 5,280 feet above sea level – the altitude Denver has been proudly displaying on the court for years.
Jokic ended the night with 28 points and 16 rebounds, earning him the Finals MVP trophy.
Michael Porter Jr. scored 16 points while Murray added 14.
Meanwhile, coach Malone had a message for Nuggets fans as the celebrations started.
“We want more,” he told them ahead of what was promising to be another sleepless night.
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