The Denver Nuggets and Miami Heat got Game 5 started in a very similar fashion to what we saw from them in Game 1. The Nuggets were allowing Bam Adebayo to score more or less at will, and no one else for the Heat was stepping up. For Denver, they couldn’t buy a bucket. They were hanging around on the offensive end, but they weren’t getting any shots to fall from outside the arc. At the end of the first quarter, the Heat were leading 24-22, and they were carrying a lot of the momentum due in large part to the early foul trouble the Nuggets were dealing with as Aaron Gordon and Nikola Jokic each had a pair of early fouls.

In the second quarter, it was more of the same. The Nuggets continued to struggle from outside the arc, and the Heat were making them work. Denver was turning the ball over on offense, and they never looked comfortable on that end of the floor for any consistent stretch of time. For the Heat, they were getting strong minutes out of Kyle Lowry off of the bench, and they were continuing to apply pressure to Denver because the Nuggets were failing to respond to that pressure. They extended their lead heading into the half by winning the quarter 27-22, and the Heat were playing the exact type of game that they wanted. They had drug the Nuggets into the deep and murky water that they liked to play, and Denver looked to have no answer for them.

In the third quarter, the Nuggets looked like they had finally started to turn the corner and figured something out. The team got a couple of triples to fall, including a big one from Michael Porter Jr., who had turned in an outstanding game thus far, even though he was struggling from distance. At the end of the third quarter, he had 16 points with 13 rebounds while shooting 7-of-15 from the floor. Denver outscored the Heat 26-20 in the third quarter, and, despite struggling to score overall, the Nuggets were holding the Heat to an even lower shooting mark. Denver trailed 70-71 entering the fourth, but they had a lot of momentum at their back, and they were 12 minutes away from their first NBA championship.

To start the fourth quarter, Denver’s defense was smothering, and the refs were letting the defenses play on both ends of the floor. If you wanted to get a foul call, it wasn’t going to by flopping. They were going to make you get hit. Denver was outscoring Miami 11-5 a little over seven minutes into the quarter, and Denver was looking to take away the last bit of life that the Heat had in them. The Heat got to within four following a Jimmy Butler triple that was immediately answered by Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, but Jimmy came back with another right away. The next time down, MPJ missed an open triple, and the Heat came back the other way with a Butler three that missed while appearing to be fouled at first. The replay review determined that the call would stand despite everyone on the commentary crew disagreeing with the call. Butler would knock down all three free thorws, and the Heat were trailing 85-86 with 3:21 remaining. Jimmy gave the Heat the lead with under 2:45 remaining, and it was going to be a back-and-forth affair all the way to the buzzer.

Bruce Brown secured a rebound off of a Murray miss before hitting the layup to retake the lead. With 1:11 remaining, Denver had the ball with a 1-point lead. Jokic missed a shot, and the Heat got the rebound. Butler drove into the lane and got stopped. It appeared as though he traveled, but, in a moment that looked as if it was scripted by the basketball gods, the phrase “ball don’t lie” came true when Butler threw the ball away with just over 27 seconds on the clock where it was picked off by KCP. Caldwell-Pope went to the line with a chance to take a 3-point lead with 24.7 remaining. He knocked down both, and the Heat called a timeout to come up with a play for their last hope at victory. With around 18 seconds remaining, Butler put up a highly contested triple that will likely go down as the most questioned shot all offseason. Bruce Brown secured the rebound and got both free throws to fall, and the Nuggets were leading by five with 14.3 seconds remaining. Ball Arena was ready to explode in the final seconds of this game. Lowry’s last-second 3-pointer was off the mark, and the Nuggets had captured their first title in franchise history by a score of 94-89.

Stat Leaders

Points: Nikola Jokic – 28

Assists: Jamal Murray – 8

Rebounds: Jokic – 16

Player of the Game: Nikola Jokic – 28 points, 4 assists, 16 rebounds, 12-of-16 field goal, 1-of-3 3-point, 3-of-5 free throw