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Denver Nuggets win first NBA championship title in Game 5 victory over Miami Heat

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The Denver Nuggets won their first NBA championship Monday night, downing the Miami Heat 94-89 at Ball Arena in Denver to take Game 5 of the NBA Finals.

Two-time MVP Nikola Jokić led the way for the Nuggets with a game-high 28 points and 16 rebounds.

“It was an amazing effort by the team,” he told ABC after the game. “It was an ugly game. We couldn’t make shots but at the end, we figured out how to defend.”

The Serbian big man was voted Most Valuable Player of the NBA Finals, and is the first center to win the award named after the late Bill Russell since Shaquille O’Neal of the Lakers in 2002.

Hours after the game, at least nine people were injured in a mass shooting in downtown Denver, where crowds had gathered to celebrate the city’s first NBA championship.

‘We love him’

Meanwhile, following the Game 5 victory, Nuggets coach Michael Malone hailed Jokić, who is rapidly establishing himself as one of basketball’s best ever centers, as “a great person.”

“He’s a great husband, father and son and brother,” Malone told reporters. “And on the basketball court he has proven time and time again that he’s the best player in the NBA. He’s our MVP, we love him and we’re thankful that he’s wearing a Nuggets’ uniform.”

The 28-year-old Jokić posted 10 total triple-doubles to pass Wilt Chamberlain (seven) for most all-time in a single playoff run. He also finished the postseason as the first player in NBA history to lead all players in points, rebounds, and assists in a single postseason, according to ESPN Stats & Info.

Denver’s Michael Porter Jr. had 16 points and 13 boards and Jamal Murray chipped in 14 points.

“All the hard work, all the sacrifice, all the dedication, all culminated with us winning a championship,” Malone told ABC. “But I got news for everybody out there: We’re not satisfied with one. We want more. We want more.”

Jimmy Butler had 21 points and Bam Adebayo had 20 to lead Miami, which as an eight-seed had surprised the NBA by advancing to the Finals.

Denver struggled from the free throw and 3-point lines but led by as many as seven points in the fourth quarter. But the Heat went on a 13-5 run and led by one point, 89-88, with 1:58 left in the contest.

Denver scored the game’s final six points with Bruce Brown knocking in a putback layup with 91 seconds left, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Brown hitting free throws as the final minute played out. Miami couldn’t connect as Heat players tried several 3-pointers.

“There’s no regrets on our end. There’s just sometimes where you get beat, you know, and Denver was the better basketball team in this series,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “I would say that it will probably rank as our hardest, competitive, most active defensive game of the season, and it still fell short.”

The Nuggets were victorious despite being 5-for-28 on 3’s – they missed 20 of their first 22 attempts – and 13-23 at the free throw line.

The Nuggets, who played in the American Basketball Association for nine seasons beginning in 1967, joined the NBA before the 1976-1977 season.

The city will hold a parade and celebration for the Nuggets on Thursday.

Before this season, the team’s 47th in the NBA, Denver had advanced to the conference finals four times in franchise history (1978, 1985, 2009, 2020), losing to the Los Angeles Lakers on each occasion.

This season the Nuggets swept the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals.

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