The NBA champion Denver Nuggets picked up right where they left off, opening their 2023-24 season with a dominant 119-107 win over the Los Angeles Lakers.

Just as he did in Denver’s Finals series victory against the Miami Heat, Nikola Jokic was at his brilliant best for the home team, orchestrating the Nuggets’ performance behind a 29-point triple-double.

Denver exploded out of the gates to open a 14-point lead at the end of the first quarter, before LeBron James helped the Lakers claw their way back to within 10 by half-time.

However, the Lakers struggled to compete with James off the floor, Denver ultimately coasting to a 12-point win.

Jokic added 13 rebounds and 11 assists to his game-high points total, while James top-scored for Los Angeles with 21, despite only playing 29 minutes.

Meanwhile, Kevin Durant was successful in his first trip back to Golden State since leaving the team in 2019, helping the Phoenix Suns defeat the Warriors 108-104.

Both teams traded massive momentum swings and substantial leads throughout the game before the Warriors nabbed a slight advantage as the clock ticked into the final five minutes.

But Devin Booker was able to reclaim the lead for Phoenix with a go-ahead layup and later sunk a crucial three to get the Suns over the line.

He finished with 32 points, while Durant contributed 18.

Steph Curry top-scored for Golden State with 27, while former Sun Chris Paul finished with 14 points, six rebounds and nine assists in his Warriors debut.

Nikola Jokic opened his season with another triple-double and Jamal Murray scored 21 points as the Denver Nuggets defeated the Los Angeles Lakers 119-107 on Tuesday after raising their NBA championship banner.

Jokic had 29 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists for his 106th career triple-double, which trails only Russell Westbrook (198), LeBron James (107) and Jason Kidd (107) on the career list.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope had 20 points, Aaron Gordon added 15 and Michael Porter Jr. contributed 12 points and 12 rebounds for Denver, which went 16-4 in the playoffs last season, including a sweep of the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals.

All of Los Angeles’ starters scored in double figures, led by James’ 21 points in 29 minutes as his playing time was being monitored at the start of his 21st season.

Denver led by as many as 18 points, but the Lakers whittled the lead down to three on James’ 3-pointer with 9:42 remaining.

James’ basket got Los Angeles within 103-96 with just over five minutes to play, but the Nuggets responded with a 10-3 run featuring 3s by Murray and Porter.

Booker sparks Suns past Warriors

Devin Booker scored 32 points and the Phoenix Suns got past the Golden State Warriors 108-104 in Kevin Durant’s return to the Bay Area in a back-and-forth season opener for the Pacific Division powerhouses.

Booker shot 13 of 21 and had eight assists and six rebounds, while Jusuf Nurkic added 14 points and 14 boards – including a key driving layup in the closing seconds - in his Suns debut.

Josh Okogie sank a baseline jumper with 69 seconds left, and Eric Gordon drained a 3-pointer with 45 seconds to play before Stephen Curry’s 3 drew Golden State within 106-104 with 31 seconds to go.

Nurkic’s layup made it a four-point game and Paul’s missed 3 ended the Warriors’ hopes.

Durant scored 18 points on 7-of-22 shooting with 10 rebounds in his first game in front of Bay Area fans since leaving the Warriors after the 2019 NBA Finals.

Curry had 27 points and Chris Paul had 14 points, nine assists and six rebounds in his Warriors debut facing his most recent team.

A defiant Andre Drummond suggested the Chicago Bulls can utilise an underdog mentality as his side prepare to face a host of "super teams" in the new NBA season.

The Bulls have missed out on the NBA Playoffs in five of the last six seasons, finishing 40-42 in their last campaign and failing to make the eight-seed position in the Eastern Conference.

Chicago's task in the upcoming season will be no easier, although Drummond believes the Bulls can mix with the best as numerous teams assemble impressive rosters.

"I'm looking to beat every team that we play," the 30-year-old center told Stats Perform.

"That's my mindset, but there are definitely some circles on my calendar for teams that I'm looking forward to playing. Phoenix being one of them. Denver, Boston, the Bucks, the Spurs.

"I'm really looking forward to [facing] these teams that are being formed, like these super teams everybody's talking about.

"I love when the underdog team beats them."

While the Bulls once again failed to make the postseason, Drummond took some comfort in seeing his former teammates win the championship with the Denver Nuggets.

"The Nuggets winning almost feels like I won because it's kind of personal for me," he continued.

"Four of my former teammates play for that team – Ish Smith, Reggie Jackson, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Bruce Brown – and the fact those guys have done it [makes it feel personal because of] how much work we all put into our games.

"We played for Detroit together, and to see them win it almost felt like I got a piece of that championship to see that success for them."

The Nuggets are tipped as a potential repeat champion, which has happened on just three occasions since 2010, with the talent of Nikola Jokic a key to their success.

In 20 postseason games, Jokic accumulated 600 points, 269 rebounds and 190 assists. Never before in NBA history had a player reached those numbers over a 20-game span.

Jokic also became the first player in NBA history to have 25+ points and 15+ rebounds on 75 per cent shooting in a championship-clinching win after the Game 5 victory over the Miami Heat.

Those record-breaking numbers were no surprise to Drummond, who is preparing to face a new era of NBA stars.

"It is the new age of basketball now with guys like Jokic, Giannis [Antetokounmpo] and the new kid Victor [Wembanyama] who is taking the league by storm right now," he added.

"The game is changing and changes every year, something new happens and it becomes a wave, and everybody wants to follow that trend for that year until the next wave goes on.

"I always say history repeats itself at some point in time, the true center position is going to come back around, which it already kind of has due to everybody getting out-rebounded.

"I just think it's unique man, Jokic is a unique basketball player, the way he sees the floor, he thinks like a guard and plays like a guard, but is 6'11 and almost 300 pounds.

"He's just a really smart, a great decision maker, great basketball player overall and he's very, very fun to watch and play against."

Having started with the Detroit Pistons in 2012, Drummond believes the game has changed – and will continue to evolve – albeit perhaps not for the better.

He said: "I've been a part of a lot of good basketball, and to like where it is now, where it's a little bit softer, you can't touch anybody and everybody is free flowing.

"Everybody's there for the show instead of the game of basketball, I feel like it's a lot easier now because you can't touch anybody, so it makes the game a lot easier for both the offense and defense."

Nikola Jokic had his best game of the preseason with 25 points, 14 rebounds and eight assists in the Denver Nuggets’ 101-90 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday.

The two-time MVP shot 9 of 15 from the field and 3 of 6 from 3-point range.  

Aaron Gordon and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope each added 13 points for Denver.

Los Angeles’ Bones Hyland had 25 points, seven rebounds and six assists against his former team.

 

Durant and James match up in Suns’ victory

Kevin Durant scored 21 points and the Phoenix Suns defeated the Los Angeles Clippers 123-100 in a game that put Durant and LeBron James on the court for the first time in almost five years.

James had 19 points and Anthony Davis added 15 for the Lakers.

The last time James and Durant were on the court together was Christmas 2018.

Devin Booker and Bradley Beal both sat out for Phoenix.

 

Timberwolves finish perfect preaseason

Anthony Edwards scored 19 points on 8-of-13 shooting and the Minnesota Timberwolves defeated the Chicago Bulls 114-105 to finish 5-0 in the preseason.

Minnesota had six players in double figures and 15 players scored at least one point.

Nikola Vucevic had 21 points and 10 rebounds for Chicago.

Nikola Jokic is now in "the legendary category" after he propelled the Denver Nuggets to victory in the NBA Finals.

Jokic capped a sensational postseason by sparking Denver's comeback from a 10-point second-quarter deficit on Monday.

The Serbian finished with 28 points on 12-of-16 shooting along with 16 rebounds as the Nuggets won 94-89 against the Miami Heat to clinch the championship in Game 5.

For Detroit Pistons great Isiah Thomas, two-time NBA MVP Jokic must be considered among the very best.

"It puts him in the legendary category for what he's done statistically in the Finals," Thomas told ESPN.

"I don't know if there's anyone who's ever had a statistical run in the NBA Finals as a center as he had in these categories."

For Jokic, who can now add an NBA Finals MVP award to his long list of career accolades, it was a case of a job well done.

"It's good, we did the job. I think we played the best basketball – I'm not going to say in the postseason – but we were there, playing the best basketball," Jokic told reporters.

"Since day one, there was something different about this team, an energy, and every day since I've had this feeling. I'm not really an optimistic guy but that gave me hope that we can do something."

It has been a long road for the Nuggets to their first NBA title, but Jokic believes a team must experience downs as well as ups to be great.

"If you want to be successful, you need a couple of years to be bad, then be good, and then when you're good you need to fail and then figure it out," he added.

"I think experience isn't what happened to you, it's what you're going to do after what happened. There are no shortcuts, it's a journey and I'm glad to be part of this journey.

"It's a good thing to know you've done something that nobody believed [we could]. Every player believed, and that's the good thing."

In 20 postseason games, Jokic accumulated 600 points, 269 rebounds and 190 assists. Never before in NBA history had a player reached those numbers over a 20-game span.

Jokic also became the first player in NBA history to have 25+ points and 15+ rebounds on 75 percent shooting in a championship-clinching win.

Jimmy Butler still believes he can lead the Miami Heat to NBA championship glory despite his team falling short in a 4-1 series defeat to the Denver Nuggets.

The Denver Nuggets became NBA champions for the first time after a tense 94-89 win over Miami in Game 5 on Monday.

Miami, just the second No. 8 seed out of a conference to reach the NBA Finals, made the Nuggets work for the clinching win. They held a seven-point halftime lead and were 89-88 ahead inside the last two minutes.

But the Nuggets, boosted by another monster performance from NBA Finals MVP Nikola Jokic, rallied to end the franchise's long championship drought.

Butler has been with the Heat for four seasons and lost out in the NBA Finals twice – with the Los Angeles Lakers triumphant in six games back in 2020 on his previous attempt to lift the Larry O'Brien Trophy – but the six-time All-Star, who is three months from turning 34, remains optimistic.

"It's been great," Butler said to ESPN about his four seasons with the Heat. 

"I've had some helluva teammates come through and compete with me and give us the opportunity to win a championship, which I still believe, with everything in me, that we will do as a team here, as an organisation, as a city in Miami.

"I'm just grateful. I learned so much from this group. They taught me so much. I wish I could have got it done for these guys, because they definitely deserve it."

Coach Erik Spoelstra accepted the Nuggets were worthy winners but spoke with pride about his team's achievements in a dramatic season.

Miami almost lost to the Chicago Bulls during the second game of the Eastern Conference play-in tournament before their sensational run to the Finals, beating the No.1-seeded Milwaukee Bucks, the New York Knicks and championship favourites the Boston Celtics.

"There's no regrets on our end," Spoelstra said. "There's just sometimes where you get beat, and Denver was the better basketball team in this series. 

"Those last three or four minutes felt like a scene out of a movie. Two teams in the ring throwing haymaker after haymaker, and it's not necessarily shot making, it's the efforts.

"I don't know how long it would take me to go through the autopsy of this final game, but I would say that it will probably rank as our hardest, competitive, most active defensive game of the season, and it still fell short.

"You have to tip your hat to them. They are one hell of a basketball team. They play the right way, they compete, they are well-coached and they have a strong culture. 

"So for this season, they deserve this."

Jokic capped a sensational postseason by sparking Denver's comeback from a 10-point second-quarter deficit. The Serbian star finished with 28 points on 12-of-16 shooting along with 16 rebounds. 

Butler ended with 21 points for Miami, while Bam Adebayo compiled 20 points and 12 rebounds but managed just two points in the second half.

Center Adebayo echoed the pride of Butler and Spoelstra when he looked at what had been achieved.

"You take the experience of this season, and if you can just bottle that up and everybody just have their own portion or rewritten story of it, the No. 1 thing, I think, would be will," he said. 

"So looking forward, I think this is one of my favourite teams I've ever been a part of because we willed our way through ups and downs.

"We willed our way through the things that people said we couldn't do."

Jamal Murray is confident there is more to come from the Denver Nuggets after the franchise's first NBA Finals success.

The Nuggets beat the Miami Heat 94-89 on Monday to secure a 4-1 series win, ending their wait for a championship.

Nikola Jokic, who was named the Finals MVP, starred with 28 points and 16 rebounds, while Murray added 14 points, eight assists and eight rebounds.

After losing Game 2 at home, Denver bounced back with two dominant victories in Miami before rounding off their triumph back in Colorado, and Murray had few doubts the Nuggets would get the job done.

"I knew once we were healthy, we could do it," Murray told ESPN. "So this [championship] was long overdue. I think this is the first of many.

"We clearly can do it, so let's do it again."

There was a similar sentiment from Denver coach Michael Malone, who wants to turn a championship into a dynasty.

He told reporters: "Pat Riley said something many years ago. I used to have it up on my board when I was a head coach in Sacramento.

"It talked about the evolution in this game and how you go from a nobody to an upstart, and you go from an upstart to a winner, and a winner to a contender, and a contender to a champion, and the last step after a champion, is to be a dynasty.

"So we're not satisfied. We accomplished something this franchise has never done before, but we have a lot of young talented players in that locker room, and I think we just showed through 16 playoff wins what we're capable of on the biggest stage in the world."

Two-time NBA MVP Jokic was the star of the show all season for the Nuggets.

The 28-year-old tallied 600 points, 269 rebounds and 190 assists in the postseason. It is the first time any player in the history of the NBA had reached those numbers across a 20-game span (including both regular-season and postseason games).

Jokic also became the first player in NBA history to have 25+ points and 15+ rebounds on 75 per cent shooting in a championship-clinching win.

"The job is done, and we can go home now," Jokic said.

The Denver Nuggets have won their first NBA championship with a 94-89 victory over the Miami Heat in game five of the NBA finals.

In a back-and-forth affair, the Nuggets were able to hold off a late rally from Miami and claim the Larry O’Brien trophy in front of their home fans.

Nikola Jokic again led the way for Denver with 28 points, while Jimmy Butler finished with 21 after a late flurry brought the Heat agonisingly close to forcing a game six back in Miami.

Some early struggles from deep gave the Heat a seven-point lead at half-time, but Denver clamped down defensively in the second half and held Miami to just 38 points over the final two quarters.

Eight-straight points and a pair of clutch free throws from Butler put the Heat back in front by one with less than two minutes remaining, but the visitors were ultimately unable to claw their way back again after Denver’s Bruce Brown grabbed an offensive rebound and tip-in.

Bruce Brown scored the go-ahead layup with 1:30 remaining and the Denver Nuggets held on for a 94-89 win over the Miami Heat on Monday to clinch the first NBA championship in franchise history.

Denver overcame a 10-point second-quarter deficit to oust the underdog Heat in five games and secure the first title in the team's 47-year NBA tenure. Nikola Jokić led the second-half rally and finished with 28 points and 16 rebounds, while Michael Porter Jr. added 16 points and 13 rebounds. 

Miami was seeking to become the first No. 8 seed out of a conference to win a championship and had guard Tyler Herro active for the first time since he broke his right hand in the team's playoff opener on April 16. The 2021-22 NBA Sixth Man of the Year did not play, however. 

Aaron Gordon provided a huge lift with 27 points and the Denver Nuggets received contributions from several sources in a 108-95 victory over the Miami Heat on Friday to get within one win of the franchise’s first NBA championship.

Nikola Jokic worked around foul trouble to tally 23 points and 12 rebounds and Bruce Brown scored 11 of 21 points down the stretch to help the Nuggets take a 3-1 lead in the series. Denver can wrap up the title at home in Game 5 on Monday.

Jamal Murray scored 15 points on 5-of-17 shooting but had 12 assists. His shooting struggles were offset by Gordon, who was 11 of 15 from the field with six rebounds and six assists. Brown connected on 8 of 11 field goals and his third 3-pointer of the night with 1:21 left pushed the advantage to 108-91.

Jokic went to the bench with 9:24 to play after he committed his fifth foul with Denver holding a 10-point lead. He checked back in just over five minutes later with the Nuggets leading 96-87.

Jimmy Butler scored 25 points and Bam Adebayo added 20 with 11 rebounds, but the Heat had their final lead at 23-20 early in the second quarter. They cut the deficit to 94-87 midway through the fourth before Brown scored Denver’s next eight points to make it 102-91.

Miami appears to be wearing down with its sixth loss in eight games since taking a 3-0 lead over the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals.

The Denver Nuggets are within one game of claiming their first NBA championship after dismantling the Miami Heat 108-95 in the fourth game of the NBA finals.

The Nuggets return to Denver for game five of the seven-game series, where they will aim to win the franchise’s first Larry O’Brien trophy in their 56-year history.

Nikola Jokic again proved a mismatch for Miami, wthe Serbian posting 23 points and 10 rebounds.

He was ably supported by Aaron Gordon, who finished with a game-high 27 points in one of the best performances of his career.

Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo combined for 45 points for the Heat, who were ultimately let down by another poor shooting effort from three.

Miami shot just 32 per cent from deep, while the Nuggets drained half of their three-point attempts.

The Heat kept pace with the Nuggets early, maintaining just a four-point deficit at the half.

But Denver exploded for 31 points in the third quarter, claiming an advantage which, despite a rally late in the fourth, Miami were ultimately unable to overcome.

The Denver Nuggets are following the "phenomenal" Jamal Murray in the NBA Finals, says Nikola Jokic.

Jokic and Murray became the teammates in NBA Finals history to record triple-doubles as the Nuggets defeated the Miami Heat 109-94 on Wednesday to take a 2-1 lead in the series.

Two-time NBA MVP Jokic had 32 points, 21 rebounds and 10 assists for the first such game in Finals history, or at least the first since assists were tracked.

The triple-double was his 10th this postseason and 16th of his career, a number that trails only LeBron James (28).

Murray had 34 points and 10 assists and completed his first career playoff triple-double with a rebound with nine seconds remaining, and Jokic lauded his teammate for leading the Nuggets through the playoffs so far.

"He's playing phenomenally, I think, the whole playoffs," Jokic said of Murray.

"We're just following him and he's a really good leader. His energy is amazing, and we are just following.

"He's reading the game really well. He's getting guys involved, and I think he's mature, if that makes any sense, and he knows where to find the guys and how to control the game.

"It's not just us, it's the team, and like I said even before the series started, the Denver Nuggets need to beat Miami, not me and Jamal and whoever is on the other side. We as a group need to beat them."

Asked how proud he was of his record-achieving performance, Jokic replied: "To be honest, I just think it's a win because if you lose, nobody is going to even mention it. I don't care. It's just a stat."

The Nuggets' win came after they had lost Game 2 of the series at home.

Jokic added: "When you lose the game, of course it's a bad atmosphere, whatever, it's a bad momentum. But maybe it helped us to refocus and just be better in the details. But that doesn't mean that we can relax now or whatever. We need to have the same effort because they're going to be even better."

Nuggets coach Michael Malone eulogised over the performances of his star players.

"I think it's the first time in Finals history or maybe NBA history that two guys have 30, 10 triple-doubles, so that's incredible right there," Malone said.

"Regarding Nikola, nothing he does surprises me ever. This guy has shown time and time again that he's built for these moments. He thrives in these moments, the biggest stage. He did that once again tonight.

"I'm really proud of Jamal, and I could tell speaking to him yesterday, being around him the last 48 hours, that he was putting a lot of Game 2 on him, and it wasn't just him. It was me and every one of our players. It was collective.

"But that's what champions do. That's what warriors do. They battled back. I felt his presence all day long. Forget the stats for a second. I felt Jamal's presence, his energy, and he was here in the moment and for him and Nikola to do what they did tonight in a game that we needed to take, regain home-court advantage of the series was special to watch."

Reflecting on his performance in Game 2, Murray said: "I felt like I didn't bring the intensity that the moment called for. Even though I didn't play terrible, I felt like I could have done a lot more.

"Most people that have watched the Nuggets play, when I have a game like that, I'm most likely going to bounce back. Just one of those days. I think not just me but everybody bounced back. Everybody brought the energy. 

"Everybody was just coming into the game and wanting to bring the intensity that we're used to playing with."

Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray created a piece of NBA Finals history as they inspired the Denver Nuggets to a 109-94 win over the Miami Heat and a 2-1 lead in the series.

The pair became the first teammates in finals history to chalk up triple-doubles – Murray finishing with 34 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists while Jokic added 32 points, 21 rebounds and 10 assists in Miami.

“I’m just glad that we won the game,” Jokic said. “It was a big one for us because they won in our arena. We just didn’t want to go down 2-1. We were more locked in, more focused.”

Jimmy Butler scored 28 points for the Heat and Bam Adebayo finished with 22, but the hosts were unable to produce one of the comebacks which have been their trademark during the play-offs.

Seven times in the post-season they have rallied from at least 12 points, but down by 14 heading into the final quarter they were unable to produce another late rally.

The lead, which Denver had taken after sharing the first quarter and never surrendered in the second half, stretched out to 21 and even though Miami got it back to nine inside the final 90 seconds, they would get no closer.

Jokic finished with 12 for 21 from the floor as he extended the single-season record with his 10th triple-double of the play-offs and became only the seventh player to have more than one in the same finals series – only Magic Johnson and LeBron James have managed three.

Miami’s Udonis Haslem, who turns 43 on Friday, came off the bench in the final 30 seconds to become the oldest player in the NBA Finals, taking the record of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray became the teammates in NBA Finals history to record triple-doubles and the Denver Nuggets defeated the Miami Heat 109-94 on Wednesday for a 2-1 lead.

Jokic had 32 points, 21 rebounds and 10 assists for the first such game in Finals history, or at least the first since assists were tracked. The triple-double was his 10th this postseason and 16th of his career, a number that trails only LeBron James (28).

Murray had 34 points and 10 assists and completed his first career playoff triple-double with a rebound with nine seconds remaining.

Christian Braun provided Denver with a lift off the bench, scoring 15 points on 7-of-8 shooting in 19 minutes. Aaron Gordon had 11 points, nine rebounds and five assists to help Denver win its fourth straight postseason road game.

The Nuggets took the lead for good late in the first half and outscored the Heat 29-20 in the third quarter for an 82-68 advantage heading into the final quarter. The lead ballooned to as big as 21 points before Miami whittled it down to 103-94 with just over a minute left.

Jimmy Butler scored 28 points, but Bam Adebayo was the only other Heat player with more than 10 points, adding 22 and 17 rebounds. Miami lost its third straight home playoff game after winning six in a row there.

Game 4 is Friday in Miami.

 

Gabe Vincent scored 23 points and helped spark a fourth-quarter rally that propelled the Miami Heat to a 111-108 win over the Denver Nuggets on Sunday in Game 2 of the NBA Finals, evening the championship series at 1-1.

The Heat overcame an eight-point deficit to start the fourth quarter to snap the Nuggets' seven-game winning streak and send the series to Miami all tied. Game 3 will take place Wednesday.

Denver also was handed its first loss in 10 home games during this postseason despite another big effort from two-time NBA MVP Nikola Jokić, who poured in 41 points on 16-of-28 shooting along with 11 rebounds. 

Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo each contributed 21 points for the Heat, while Duncan Robinson scored all 10 of his points during a pivotal 15-2 run to open the fourth quarter that sent Miami ahead to stay.

Jokic scored the final six points of the third quarter to give the Nuggets an 83-75 lead that turned out to be short-lived. Robinson had the first eight points of Miami's momentum-shifting surge, and Vincent later added a 3-pointer before hitting two free throws that put the Heat up 90-85 with nine minutes remaining.

Miami held a 107-95 advantage after Caleb Martin's 3-pointer with 3:39 left to play, but the Nuggets responded with a late charge to put the outcome back in doubt.

Aaron Gordon and Jamal Murray hit 3-pointers to ignite an 11-2 run Murray capped with another triple that pulled Denver within 109-106 entering the final minute.

After Jokic countered two Butler free throws with a short turnaround jumper with 35.6 seconds left, Butler missed a 3-pointer on the ensuing possession to give the Nuggets a chance to tie.

Murray misfired on a step-back 3-point try with 1.9 seconds left, however, and Martin grabbed the rebound as time expired.

Denver, which led by as many as 15 points in the first half, had been 11-0 this postseason when holding a double-digit lead.

 

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.