The Denver Nuggets have sealed their first NBA title in franchise history, defeating the Miami Heat 94-89 to end a 47-season wait for a championship.
Serbian star Nikola Jokic scored 28 points and took 16 rebounds on Monday, leading the Nuggets to win the best-of-seven NBA Finals 4-1.
Keep readinglist of 3 items
The Nuggets initially struggled with shooting, missing 23 of 28 shots from 3-point range and 10 of 23 free throws.
“It was ugly and we couldn’t make shots. But at the end we figured it out,” Jokic said after hugging all of his jubilant teammates and coaches. “I am just happy we won the game.”
Jokic was named the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player (MVP) after becoming the first in league history to lead the playoffs in total points (600), rebounds (269) and assists (190).
The championship also filled the final gap in the impressive resume of the 28-year-old, a two-time NBA MVP and five-time All-Star centre in his eighth NBA campaign.
Fireworks exploded outside Ball Arena in Denver at the final buzzer. The city in the state of Colorado is the home of the Larry O’Brien Trophy for the first time in the franchise’s nearly half a century in the league.
Nuggets coach Michael Malone said the team was “not satisfied with one” NBA crown. “We want more,” he said.
Michael Porter Jr added 16 points and 13 rebounds, and Jamal Murray added 14 points, eight rebounds and eight assists for the Nuggets.
“We had the belief from the get-go,” Murray said. “It’s just great to see it through.”
“To do it with this group of guys, nothing could feel better than this,” Porter added.
The Nuggets were the playoff top seed in the Western Conference while the eighth-seeded Heat, which had to win a play-in game just to reach the playoffs, lost in the finals for the third time in 10 seasons.
June has been a highly successful month for Serbia, the small Balkan state of just more than 6 million people.
Alongside Jokic bagging his first NBA ring, tennis star Novak Djokovic won a record 23rd Grand Slam men’s singles title at the French Open final on Sunday.
“For us he’s the best ever, of course,” Jokic said of Djokovic. “Now we have our NBA championship. It’s a really good moment to be a Serbian.”