Nuggets 3-pointers: Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray deliver in fourth quarter

Initial thoughts from the Nuggets’ NBA title-clinching victory over the Miami Heat on Monday night at Ball Arena.

1. The duo shows up: First Nikola Jokic dropped in a short hook. Then Jamal Murray canned a 3-pointer in transition off a feed from Aaron Gordon. Closing time arrived at Ball Arena and the Nuggets’ two best players went to work securing the Larry O’Brien Trophy. Jokic and Murray combined for Denver’s first 11 points of the fourth quarter in Game 5 on Monday night, turning a one-point deficit at the break into an 81-76 lead with 6 minutes, 42 seconds to go. Jokic added another basket before Kentavius Caldwell-Pope provided the first points from anybody else for Denver in the final quarter at its midway point. They needed the others to close it out — Bruce Brown with a layup and Caldwell-Pope with a clutch steal and two free throws with 24.7 seconds to go to put the Nuggets up 92-89, but Denver’s dynamic duo rose to the occasion down the stretch and can forever call themselves world champions after an historic playoff run ended in triumph.

2. Painting over problems: The Nuggets shot the ball so poorly over the first three quarters you’d have thought Bam Adebayo had tilted the Ball Arena rims. They launched 23 3-point attempts in the first 36 minutes and 20 went begging. They took 17 free throws and only got nine to fall. The mid-range might as well have been the Mojave Desert. Denver’s only hope: Break out the brushes and get to work in the paint. Of their first 70 points, 48 came down low and another nine from the free-throw line. They hit just two mid-range jumpers and three 3-pointers to round out the scoring effort over that stretch, scratching and clawing and laying in enough layups to stay within 71-70 of Miami.

3. A Playoff Jimmy cameo: Closing out a championship isn’t usually pretty work. Especially for a team that’s never won a title, win No. 16 was always going to be more difficult than vanquishing Minnesota or Phoenix or the Lakers. Late in Game 5, the Nuggets also, finally, found themselves going toe-to-toe with Playoff Jimmy. Miami star Jimmy Butler scored 13 straight points in the fourth quarter to put the Heat in front, 89-88 with 1:58 left. Butler had scored in the series – 28 points in Game 3, 25 in Game 4 – but he hadn’t really pulled out his trademark postseason insanity until the Nuggets got oh-so-close to the confetti. No. 22 wasn’t going to go down without a fight. Denver overcame that, too, to claim its first title.

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