The Denver Nuggets started in the ABA as the Denver Rockets in 1967. They had one Finals appearance and never won the title. In 1976-77, they entered the NBA as the Denver Nuggets. From that moment until 2023, they had never even made the Finals. Now, for the first time ever, in either their ABA or NBA existence, the Denver Nuggets are NBA champions
Look, winning the NBA title is nearly impossible to do. So much has go to right in order to reach the top of the mountain. If you're able to do it, winning the whole thing is great enough no matter where it happens. But when you also get to win that ring on your home floor, in front of your own fans, that's something truly special. That's some life changing shit that every single Nuggets fan in that arena will remember for the rest of their lives. Not only that, but the game in which the Nuggets won was a battle. This wasn't a case where they were up by a ton all night and coasted to this title. Down by as much as 10, the Heat re-taking the lead in the final minutes, the Nuggets had to show up, get a fucking stop and earn this title
That is exactly what they did.
There is simply no denying the fact that the Denver Nuggets are worthy champions. They've been a wagon all year, were that same wagon in the playoffs, and now they sit atop the NBA throne. It wasn't just Nikola Jokic who had one of the most dominant postseason runs we've ever seen. It wasn't just Jamal Murray being right there with him with a run that was like Bubble Murray only on steroids
It was everyone. Aaron Gordon coming up huge. Bruce Brown making an impact. MPJ not being able to hit a shot to save his life, but playing hard as shit in Game 5 with a title on the line and then finally being rewarded with a late 3PM. The Nuggets won this title as a collective unit, where every player who saw the floor fufilled their role and executed when it mattered most.
Let's talk about that for a second, because there's another side to this story. It's tough for the Heat to look at the final score, see they lost by 5 points, and then remember the fourth quarter of this game. It started with Spo deciding to play Cody Zeller to begin the frame, and he lasted about 15 seconds. Back to back buckets put the Nuggets up 4 just 60 seconds into the quarter. A very confusing decision when you could have just played Bam the whole way. That was an odd choice.
Then as the quarter went on, Jimmy Butler just sort of ran around. He wasn't aggressive, he wasn't even remotely interested in shooting, and it made no sense at all to watch live. It was almost as if he didn't realize what quarter or what game we were in given how passive he was playing.
Then things started to get a little wonky.
Down 4, that leg kick foul on that corner three was a massive call. I'm not sure how that doesn't get overturned other than the NBA decided to pull their best David Stern impression and make sure we had a spicy ending. It's certainly not the first time we've seen Butler get a call like that in the corner late in a 4th quarter, but that was when things looked like maybe the momentum was finally shifting in the Heat's favor for good.
Fast forward to under 40 seconds left and now was the time for execution. No matter what you do, you cannot throw the ball to the other team in this spot. That's a big no no.
Uh oh. That's exactly what Butler did. First of all, why doesn't he just call timeout? The Heat had 2 to use, and once it was clear there was no passing lane, just call timeout. Maybe things were so hectic Butler forgot. OK, that happens. Well where's Spo in this spot? How are you not blowing this play dead with your season on the line? Terrible time to fall asleep at the wheel after his Zeller decision also backfired terribly.
Then as you saw above there was the final shot. Another very confusing late game decision by Butler. Why not try and extend the game? Instead you settle for a low percentage contested 3PA? That's some boneheaded basketball if I've ever seen it and I'm someone who specializes in watching his favorite team make boneheaded decisions late in the 4th quarter to lose huge playoff games.
In the end, Butler's 5-18 was too much to overcome, Vincent/Strus again struggled to go a combined 8-25 (1-10), and it's tough to win on the road in the playoffs when you only score 18 4th quarter points. When it came to making the small winning plays down the stretch, it was the Nuggets that came through. Defensively they got stops and forced turnovers, then offensively it wasn't just late buckets by Jokic and Murray, you had a huge Bruce Brown OREB putback late as well. They saw the light at the end of the tunnel and made sure to close the door, credit where credit is due, it was a championship close.