DENVER (AP) — Jimmy Butler found his scoring touch in the fourth quarter and gave the Miami Heat a late lead and hopes of staying alive.
But after carrying the Heat past the powerful Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics during a stunning run through the Eastern Conference, Butler couldn’t lead them over the Denver Nuggets.
Butler and the Heat watched as confetti fell and the Nuggets celebrated after capturing their first championship with a 94-89 win Monday night in Game 5 of the NBA Finals.
Butler scored 13 of his 21 points in the final quarter after struggling most of the night. He had all but five of Miami’s points in the fourth quarter.
But Butler also had a bad pass in the final 30 seconds along with a missed jumper from deep.
It was just the way the series went for the Heat, just the second No. 8 seed to reach the NBA Finals. Butler, Bam Adebayo and crew gave it their best shot. They simply ran out of gas.
Playing swarming, end-to-end defense, the Heat made things difficult on the Nuggets. They made sure Jamal Murray didn’t have a moment’s peace. They made sure Nikola Jokic had multiple players around him whenever he touched the ball.
Jokic still finished with 28 points and 16 rebounds. His play all series earned him the NBA Finals MVP named after the late Bill Russell.
The Heat led by as many as 10 points at one point. They also took an 89-88 lead with 1:58 remaining on Butler’s free throw.
That advantage lasted all of 27 seconds before Bruce Brown put the Nuggets up for good on a layup.
Denver fans arrived early — paid top dollar, too — and were in a festive mood. They had plenty of the city’s sports royalty in the stands, too, like Peyton Manning and Russell Wilson, Broncos QBs past and present.
The Nuggets faithful were sent home happy in winning for the first time in their 47-year NBA history.
Pat Graham, The Associated Press