Denver Nuggets overcome Miami Heat to win the franchise's first NBA championship.

Denver Nuggets overcome Miami Heat to win the franchise’s first NBA championship.

Nikola Jokic led Denver to its first NBA championship Monday night, as the Nuggets overcame abysmal shooting and a late burst from Miami’s Jimmy Butler to beat the Heat 94-89 in Game 5.

Jokic led the Nuggets with 28 points and 16 rebounds, earning NBA Finals MVP honours – a trophy much more valuable to him than the two overall MVPs he won in 2021 and ’22.

He saved the Nuggets by shooting 12 for 16 on a night when none of his colleagues could reach the hoop. Denver missed 20 of its first 22 3-point tries and seven of its first 13 free throws, yet still managed to win the series at home.

Butler scored eight consecutive baskets to help the Heat seize an 87-86 lead with 2:45 remaining. With 1:58 left, he added two more free throws to help Miami reclaim a one-point lead. The Nuggets took the lead for good on an offensive rebound and tip-in from Bruce Brown.

Butler knocked up a 3 with 15 seconds remaining, down by three points. Brown hit two free throws to put the game out of reach and give Denver the championship.

Butler ended with a total of 21 points.

This was a dirty, frantic affair, but the end result was something both the Nuggets and their supporters could agree on.

“It was ugly and we couldn’t make shots, but we figured it out in the end,” Jokic added. “I’m just happy we won the game.”

The Heat were a scrappy, tenacious group, just as coach Erik Spoelstra had predicted. But their shooting was also subpar. The Heat’s Bam Adebayo scored 20 points, but Miami shot 34% from the field and 25% from three. Butler was 2 for 13 for eight points before going off.

The Heat, who overcame a defeat in the play-in round to become just the second No. 8 seed to reach the finals, said they weren’t interested in consolation awards.

They played as if they intended to win, and for a time during this game, which was decided on the ground rather than in the air, it seemed as if they might.

The Nuggets, who shot 37.6% from three in the series, shot just 18% in this one. They turned the ball over 14 times. They were just 13 for 23 at the line, however Brown and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope were 4 for 4 at the end as Denver sealed the victory.

Jokic had his second foul with 2:51 remaining in the first quarter and joined Aaron Gordon on the bench.

For the remainder of the half, the Nuggets were hesitant on both sides of the floor. Despite shooting 6.7% from three, the lowest first half in finals history (10-shot minimum), they only trailed by seven points.

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