"That's good. The job is done and we can go home now," said the Serb with his own detachment, even in the greatest moment of his career.
"Miami is a great, brave, extraordinary team that I respect a lot. It was an incredible effort from our team. It was an ugly game. We didn't manage to score many shots, but in the end we figured out how to defend."
Indeed, this bitter fifth game was complicated at home, for Denver, terribly clumsy from long distance (5/23) and free throws (13/23), inquired by the rearguard of Miami and, probably, hands a little shaky at the time of conclusion (4-1).
"It's probably our most accomplished defensive game of the season, and it wasn't enough," said Florida coach Erik Spoelstra, who also saw leader Jimmy Butler don his superhero cape in the final quarter, scoring 13 of his 21 points in three minutes. But he finally cracked, with a bad pass and a missed shot in the final seconds.
Serbian Denver Nuggets star Nikola Jokic, MVP of the finals against the Miami Heat, celebrates the title with his daughter in his arms, on June 12, 2023 in Denver © MATTHEW STOCKMAN/GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP
And all Denver to finally exult, but not Jokic, first left to shake hands with the losers and impassive at the time of receiving his MVP trophy with his daughter in his arms, while his two older brothers were overwhelmed with tears.
Winning bet on continuity
The Serb was again giant, in this match the least successful of his team (28 pts, 16 rbds), leading it to a deserved coronation, for its first final in 47 seasons of presence in the league.
Nikola Jokic (#15), dominating under the basket, faces Miami Heat's Bam Adebayo during the Nuggets' NBA Finals win on June 12, 2023 in Denver © Justin Edmonds/GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP
Ultra-dominant, endowed with an exceptional basketball IQ, altruistic as possible, he sparkled throughout this final. Already elected double MVP of the regular season in 2021 and 2022, he can now not be challenged the unofficial status of best player on the planet, just like is in tennis his compatriot Novak Djokovic, winner Sunday of a record 23rd Grand Slam at Roland-Garros.
This achievement crowns a near-perfect season, finished in first place in the Western Conference, prior to playoffs where their dominance was indisputable.
It also rewards the bet of continuity made by franchise owner Stan Kroenke, adept at patience in a world of emergency, and already champion in the NFL with the Los Angeles Rams and in the NHL with the Colorado Avalanche.
"I have news for everyone. We don't settle for one title! We want more!" shouted coach Michael Malone, finally rewarded for his hard work over the past eight years.
"We win for the teammate who is by our side. That's why this success means so much. We believe in all of us," said Jokic, embodying the philosophy established by his coach that the collective prevails over the individual.
Michael Malone, the coach of the Denver Nuggets, all smiles during a press conference after his team's victory in the NBA Finals, on June 12, 2023 in Denver © Justin Edmonds / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP
Missed again for Miami
In this game where the Heat first showed their fangs and long pushed the Nuggets to their limits, it was necessary to have faith in the other to force fate. Because apart from Michael Porter Jr (16 pts, 14 rbds), the gamberge won Jamal Murray (14 pts, 8 assists) and Aaron Gordon (4 pts), yet so strong in this final.
So much so that Denver trembled to the end, but owed its salvation to the defense. Bam Adebayo, untenable with his 18 points in the first half could only add 2 then (12 rbds).
Miami Heat star Jimmy Butler (#22) efforts were in vain against NBA Finals winner Aaron Gordon with the Nuggets on June 12, 2023 in Denver © MATTHEW STOCKMAN/GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP
Proof that even when not much was going well, the Nuggets were simply too strong for the Heat, who came to the final, after passing ric-rac by the playoffs. Successively, Miami has defied the odds, dismissing Giannis Antetokounmpo's Bucks, the resurgent Knicks and the finalist Celtics last year.
But the mountain at the foot of the Rockies, nicknamed "Mile High City" for its 1609 m altitude, was too high for the Floridians, who also dreamed of making history, becoming the first No. 8 seed team to win the NBA. Instead, crowned in 2006, 2012 and 2013, they lament a fourth failure in seven finals after 2011, 2014 and 2020.
What could be more normal than a gold rush finding its pioneers in Colorado...
© 2023 AFP