Nuggets overcome all obstacles to reach the brink of history

Jun 10, 2023, 8:45 AM

There was no celebration in the Denver Nuggets locker room after their brilliant 108-95 win over the Miami Heat giving them a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals. Overcoming the supposed road disadvantage and the definite referee disadvantage, the Nuggets are now one home win away from their first NBA championship.

“We haven’t done anything,” said a hoarsely excited coach Michael Malone. “We aren’t celebrating. We know we have to turn off everything telling you how great you are. We stay true to our identity, we’ll have a great chance to do that.”

With Nikola Jokic in foul trouble, the combination of Aaron Gordon and Bruce Brown, who combined for a staggering 48 points, led the way defining what Nuggets basketball is all about.

“The non-Nikola minutes have gone really well,” said Malone. “Bruce Brown was amazing. He was aggressive and got to the basket. Aaron Gordon was huge. He brought his hard hat tonight. Jamal (Murray) had 12 assists and no turnovers. That’s just remarkable. It was truly a team win.”

Murray became the first player in NBA history with 10-plus assists in his first four NBA Finals games. While still hitting critical buckets for 15 points, Murray was more of a playmaker than a scorer.

“We’re just ready to win a championship,” said Murray. “We have the tools to do it. We are just locked in.”

Malone praised the poise of Murray.

“Regardless of what’s going on, he’s going to step up,” said Malone. “He had 15 tonight, but 12 assists and no turnovers. He didn’t get bored of making the right play. A big part of our culture is trusting each other.”

In the beginning, chaos reigned supreme. Both teams looked discombobulated. Only the steady hand of Aaron Gordon found the center to revolve around.

“Aaron did it all for us tonight,” said Malone. “He’s had moments where he’s carried us offensively. I couldn’t be more proud of him.”

Gordon was sublime with 27 points on 11-of-15 shooting.

“I just wanted to be great for my teammates,” said Gordon. “Just doing it for my brothers.”

“AG was being just being extremely aggressive,” said Bruce Brown. “He will make the right play every time.”

Brown himself was extraordinarily brilliant collecting 21 points on an tremendously efficient 8-of-11 shooting night with three three-pointers. The vast majority of his critical contribution coming in the fourth quarter where the clutch gene was screaming “Yee-Haw!”

“It put a chip on my shoulder,” said Brown of how he was once lowly regarded. “Now, it’s showing on the biggest stage.”

The hold-your-breath moment of the game came when Jokic had to go to the locker room to take care of a twisted ankle, giving pause and terror to every Nuggets fan. But it was a zebra not a twisted ankle that became the biggest issue.

After a Bam Adebayo thunderous dunk, the Nuggets got the break they needed. A man in a suit fixed the off-balanced rim. But, it took time. The delay was strangely reminicient of the two times this season at Ball Arena where the rim correction sucked up gobs and gobs of time. On the surface, it seemed like a good thing in terms of resting Jokic. Who would know that referee Scott Foster, best friend of shamed, crooked ref Tim Donaghey, would have other plans for the Joker?

Bill Simmons, legendary hoops impresario, tweeted “this is a joke” upon seeing the garbage fifth foul called on Jokic. It forced massive minutes without the greatest player on earth upon the rest of the team.

However, the Nuggets were up for the challenge, as they’ve been up for every adversity thrown their way. With Jokic on the bench, the Nuggets held service. Jeff Green hit a huge three. Murray had 12 assists with zero turnovers. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who has had his shooting struggles, drilled the dagger three to cinch the victory.

After the game, Murray breathlessly, but with determination, told Lisa Salters their never ending mantra of nothing matters except for a championship.

“When we get that dub, we can talk more,” said a controlled Murray.

While repeating the tried-and-true cliche, this time, it felt different. Murray, along with all Nuggets fans, knows what this brilliant road win means. There’s one more game left. One more game that will define immortality. In a game where Jokic was merely great, not spectacular with 23 points, 12 rebounds and four assists, one more game Monday night at Ball Arena will define these players, coaches and fans forever.

“We still need to win one more,” said the Joker likely counting the minutes when he can rejoin his horses in Sombor, Serbia. “I like it that we didn’t relax. That’s what makes me happy. The guys didn’t relax. ”

The Nuggets are destined to be champions. Who will step up next is anybody’s guess. It doesn’t really matter, as the most predictable aspect of this world-class team is the unpredictable nature of success. The best hoopers in the world will be crowned Monday night in their hometown of Denver, Colorado.


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