The perfection of basketball offense. The shooting is too great. There is no way to defend the entire floor. The 3-point shot has ruined basketball. The Denver Nuggets had one of the greatest statistical offenses in NBA history during the 2022-23 NBA regular season, and defeated the Miami Heat in Game 5 of the finals 94-89 to win the franchise’s first championship. That Game 5 is the lowest-scoring finals game since the Cleveland Cavaliers defeated the Golden State Warriors 93-89 in Game 7 of their 2016 matchup.
Game 5 of the 2023 finals was disjointed from the start. Jamal Murray turned the ball over on the first possession of the game, and the Nuggets committed four turnovers before three minutes had ticked off of the clock. The most important game of the season was clustered, clunky, and choppy. A 48-minute evening that truly encapsulated on a basketball court the chaos of the entirety of the 2022-23 NBA season.
A season that began with the entire world seeing video of Draymond Green sending a right hand into Jordan Poole’s face at practice. It’s bad enough that he punched a teammate two weeks before the Warriors were set to receive their championship rings on national television.
Like most controversies though, hearing what happened doesn’t always significantly stir human emotion. But when that security camera footage got leaked to TMZ, questions regarding how content Russell Westbrook and the Los Angeles Lakers were with each other had to take a backseat. The defending NBA Champions were both fighting and snitching.
Actually, rewind, the controversy that led off the season was the Boston Celtics having to suspend their head coach Ime Udoka for an entire season due to inappropriate conduct in the workplace. The coach that appeared to have finally instilled some discipline in the team that played against the Warriors in the 2022 NBA finals, was allegedly exercising little to none in his personal life. During the 2023-24 season, he will attempt to restore his good name as the head coach of the Houston Rockets.
The NBA regular season began on Oct. 18. By the first week of November Kyrie Irving was suspended for sharing anti-Semitic content on his social media. He was suspended and given a list of chores to complete before returning to the floor, all of this before the Christmas Day slate of games.
After a regular season in which no team had averaged less than 109.5 points per game, which had NBA media and fans alike clucking about load management and the importance of the regular season, both the Heat and Nuggets each scored more than 24 points in a quarter only once on Monday night. During the final quarter of the 2022-23 NBA season, there was most certainly beauty in the struggle, and ugliness in the success.
For nearly four and a half minutes of game time, only two points were scored. Some of that was due to the Nuggets’ inability to hold onto the basketball. Of their 14 turnovers on the night, three came during that stretch of play.
The Nuggets were fortunate that the Heat somehow weren’t able to locate the rim in Ball Arena. The Heat’s scoring drought began after Kyle Lowry’s made 3-pointer with 9:38 remaining to reduce the Nuggets’ lead to 77-76. When Butler hit a 3-pointer with four and half minutes left in the game to bring the score to 83-79, those were the Heat’s first points — not field goal, literal points — since the Lowry three.
Of the two turnovers that the Heat committed in the fourth, none were during that scoreless stretch. But if turnover totals were subject to a ringside judge as opposed to a numerical quantification, the Heat likely would have been levied with several. The shots that they attempted were putrid. Watching those attempts launched into the air, it was a surprise that any found the rim.
With the Nuggets pulling out one of the ugliest NBA Finals wins since J.J. Hickson was considered crucial to the success of the Cleveland Cavaliers, the 2022-23 season should be closed. Unfortunately, the offensive offense of Game 5 was not enough chaos to fix attention on Victor Wembanyama’s summer league games.
Ja Morant’s punishment still has to be levied. He appeared to flaunt a firearm on Instagram Live for a second time in less than three months. There is a slim-to-none chance that he will take the floor for the Memphis Grizzlies’ first game of the 2023-24 season.
Adam Silver stated publicly that he is going to wait until the end of the NBA Finals to reveal Morant’s punishment, so the padlock on the 2022-23 NBA season will not click until that news is released.
What a ride this season has been, for better and for worse. I haven’t even touched on the debate of how much the public should have been privy to Andrew Wiggins’ personal matters, while he missed two months of regular-season play.
Of course, the final game of this season would be a microcosm of the league’s chaos. Poetic most certainly, but it’s time for a much-needed break. I’m fine with the announcement of Morant’s suspension being the length of the fax Michael Jordan sent that announced his NBA return in 1995. I just need a pause in the action long enough to delineate the end of this season from the start of the next one.