Photo: Denver Nuggets/Twitter

When it mattered the most and with the lights shining the brightest, Christian Braun didn’t hesitate to own the floor when he was called up on Thursday night in South Beach.

The rookie out of Kansas performed mightily as if it was he’s already familiar with a territory where the stakes are high, helping the Denver Nuggets to carve a dominant 109-94 Game 3 win of the 2023 NBA Finals against the Miami Heat.

“I have to give Christian a lot of love,” he said. “I felt his play was fantastic. [He] did not look like a rookie, he is aggressive, strong, physical, confident. His 15 [points] and four [rebounds] were very, very impactful.”

Braun ignited himself off the bench to serve as the Nuggets’ critical x-factor in Game 3, lighting it up with 15 points and four boards in 19 minutes of play.

All of his points came in from an efficient 7-of-8 shooting. His defense, on the other hand, was also superb and fueled Denver to break away against Miami, especially in the third frame 

Malone further extended his praise and acknowledgment about Braun being a winner at his young age and that positive demeanor he holds which makes him a promising cager and a significant piece of their ongoing title hunt.

“Christian has proved himself all year long and he was in the rotation to end the season. He’s been in rotation throughout these 18 playoff games now. If you look around, there’s not many rookies playing meaningful minutes in the NBA and this time of the year, and it speaks to Christian’s confidence. It speaks to him being a winner. He’s won at every level in high school, college. And now he’s in the NBA Finals as a rookie in the NBA,” he said.

“He just stayed ready the whole year, mentally, physically, emotionally. That kid never gets too high and never gets too low. Very calm, cool and collected young man. Tonight, I could just feel the confidence that is kind of oozing out of him.”

Nikola Jokic, who led the Nuggets with another monstrous triple-double, even openly admitted that Braun’s electric performance propelled them to take the 2-1 lead in the title series.

“I told him he won us the game. He’s a winner and he won us the game with energy,” Jokic said about Braun’s performance.

“But just the focus, the mindset even when he make a mistake, it’s an aggressive mistake so you can’t be mad at him… He won us the game and he was really good tonight.”

In the perspective of Braun, it’s only about being ready. 

As they are just a few more wins away from finally hoisting the trophy, the 23-year-old understands the position they have as they are looking to capitalize on the moment of being in the championship stage.

“I’m just staying ready and this is the NBA Finals,” Braun said. “If you’re name is called, you know you got to be ready.”