MIAMI – For 56 years, from Game 1, the Rockets rolled out that red, white, and blue ABA basketball until Nikola Jokic’s magic made us believe it was no longer an impossible dream, all those who love hoops in Colorado have been waiting for this. day.
The Nuggets come home to claim a championship.
And you better believe there’s no stopping them now.
Denver beat the Heat 108-95 to take a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals and pull away a win for the first championship in franchise history.
“Let’s go Nuggets!” chanted fiery Rocky Mountain basketball fans, making their presence known in South Florida while staging a takeover of Kaseya Center.
And this Friday night, the Nuggets did it without Jokic being their most dominant player.
Although Jokic finished with 23 points and 12 rebounds, he failed to score in the final 18 minutes and 29 seconds of Game 4. Sitting many of the most crucial minutes of the fourth quarter, when Miami scraped and clawed desperately to make a return, at fault.
“You know, throughout the season, the non-Nikola minutes have been kind of shitty shooting,” coach Michael Malone said.
Malone admitted there were times when it hurt so much watching the action with Jokic by his side on the Denver bench that he had to peek around with his hands covering his eyes.
The Nuggets became too legitimate a champion to quit when they found out their swagger didn’t have to go to the bench with Joker. With Denver up 86-76 with 9:24 left in the final period, the two-time MVP committed his fifth foul when Heat center Bam Adebayo sold a flop as an offensive foul Jokic couldn’t believe.
I’m not one to blame referees or buy into conspiracy theories, but at the time, it seemed like the NBA was wanting and whistling for a way to extend this best-of-seven streak for as long as possible.
But Jamal Murray, Aaron Gordon and Bruce Brown refused to let the Nuggets succumb to the negative thoughts or fighting spirit of Jimmy Butler and the Heat.
“The guys that are out there, man, they’re competing and they’re defending,” Malone said. “Our attack may not be as good as with Nikola. But the five guys there are defending.
For five agonizing minutes and 15 long seconds in which Jokic sat down to heal five fouls (and possibly a gimpy ankle he rolled early in the contest), the Nuggets watched Miami’s challenge, allowing the Heat to reduce the deficit by only a single point.
Brown scored 11 of his 21 points in the final quarter, with a rim assault that Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said shook his players’ confidence to get defensive saves.
“Remember, when I first came to the league, I couldn’t shoot,” Brown said, eternally grateful that Nuggets general manager Calvin Booth gave him a shot at point guard when the rest of the league left him wanting offers in free agency. last summer.
From the first minutes of this series, a point was painfully hammered in Miami. When Aaron Gordon decides to go into beast mode, the Heat can’t do much but pull away and wince.
Gordon, who humbly took on all the dirty work of a role player after being a star in Orlando, led all Game 4 scorers with a postseason career-high 27 points. “I just wanted to be awesome for my teammates,” he said, “knowing my teammates needed me and wanting to be awesome for my brothers.”
Alex English, the franchise’s all-time leading scorer, watched TV in awe from afar and took to social media to hail “the others” who brought Jokic and the Nuggets back to Denver for the game on most anticipated in team history on Monday.
Are you ready for this, Nuggets Nation?
Ball Arena was packed for Game 4, with championship-hungry fans watching on the arena’s big screen, celebrating the Nuggets’ fifth straight road victory in this playoff.
“I have to thank the 18,000 fans at Ball Arena,” Malone said. “I remember when I got to Denver, we couldn’t have 18,000 fans in that building when we were there.”
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