The 2023 NBA Championship Series — Nuggets and Heat


By Ron Griffitts

Contributing columnist

In June 2023, the Denver Nuggets (53-29) coached by Michael Malone and with executive Calvin Booth made their first appearance ever in the NBA finals against the Miami Heat (44-38) coached by Eric Spoelstra with executive Pat Riley who had finished 7th in the eastern conference standings.

Denver got past the Minnesota Timberwolves 4-1, the Phoenix Suns 4-2 and the Los Angeles Lakers 4-0 to get to the finals. They were led by league MVP Nikola Jokic a native of Serbia (24.5 ppg, 11.8 rpg, 9.8 apg), Jamal Murray (20.0 ppg, 6.2 apg), Aaron Gordon (16.3 ppg, 6.6 rpg), Michael Porter, Jr. (17.4 ppg, 5.5 rpg), Bruce Brown (11.5 ppg) and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (10.8 ppg).

The Heat defeated the Milwaukee Bucks 4-1, the New York Knicks 4-2 and the Boston Celtics 4-3 to get to the championship series. They were led by Tyler Herro (20.1 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 4.2 apg), Bam Adebayo (20.4 ppg, 9.2 rpg), Jimmy Butler (22.9 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 5.3 apg), Kyle Lowry (11.2 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 5.1 apg), Max Strus (11.5 ppg), Victor Oladipo (10.7 ppg) and Caleb Martin (4.8 rpg).

Game one in the Ball Arena in Denver, Colorado was the first ever NBA championship series game held there. Denver controlled the game for a 104-93 win to take a 1-0 lead in the series. They were led by Jamal Murray with 26 points and 10 assists, Michael Porter, Jr. with 14 points and 13 rebounds and Nikola Jokic with 27 points, 10 rebounds and 14 assists.

Bam Adebayo with 26 points and 13 rebounds and Gabe Vincent with 19 points led the Heat.

The Heat rebounded for a win in game two, 111-108, behind 21 points from both Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo and 23 points from Gabe Vincent while Nikola Jokic contributed 41 points and 11 rebounds and Jamal Murray had 18 points and 10 rebounds for the Nuggets.

For game three, the teams traveled to the Kaseya Center in Miami, Florida and the Nuggets bounced back with triple doubles by Jamal Murray, (34 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists) and Nikola Jokic (32 points, 21 rebounds, 10 assists), and 11 points and 10 rebounds from Aaron Gordon for a 109-94 win to take a 2-1 lead in the series.

Bam Adebayo had 22 points and 17 rebounds and Jimmy Butler had 28 points for Miami.

In game four, the Nuggets outscored the Heat by 14 points in the second and third quarters on their way to a 108-95 win and 3-1 series’ lead. Jamal Murray contributed 15 points and 12 assists, Aaron Gordon had 27 points and Nikola Jokic had 23 points and 12 rebounds for Denver. Jimmy Butler had 25 points and Bam Adebayo had 20 points and 11 rebounds for the Heat.

In game five, back in Denver the Nuggets were focused on bringing that city their first NBA title. Miami led at halftime but Denver outscored them in both the third and fourth quarters helped by Nikola Jokic who scored 19 of his 28 points in the second half on their way to a 94-89 win in the game and the series.

Jokic also had 16 rebounds and Michael Porter, Jr. had 13 rebounds for the Nuggets while Bam Adebayo had 20 points and 12 rebounds and Jimmy Butler had 21 points for the Heat.

Jokic won the series MVP. In addition to being a great scorer and rebounder, he is one of the greatest passing centers who ever played the game.

Jokic garnered his third NBA league MVP award this year and is only behind LeBron James among active players who has four. Since the award began in 1956, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has the most with six, Bill Russell and Michael Jordan are next with five each while Wilt Chamberlain and LeBron James both won four. Julius Erving won or tied for three in the ABA and had one in the NBA.

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