On Tuesday night, the Denver Nuggets crafted a scenario so outlandish that it could only have occurred in a Disney world.
Against all odds, the Nuggets achieved NBA history by rallying from a 3-1 series disadvantage in the second half of their thrilling playoff journey. The Nuggets stunned the Clippers and the rest of the NBA by winning Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals by a score of 104-89.
The Clippers were the only ones who weren’t surprised, as they missed three straight opportunities to go to their first conference finals.
Though it was widely reported outside of sports circles as an upset victory for the Nuggets over the Clippers, it wasn’t that simple. The decisive aspect of Game 7 was the outcome of a team that believed, deeply, that it was superior to the presumptive champion.
Jamal Murray, a guard for the Denver Nuggets, remarked, “We sensed it early,” implying that the Clippers were aware of Denver’s presence in their minds. As for the third game, we lost.
It was clear from Murray’s cold-blooded claim that he felt it never should have gone to the end, to begin with. The Nuggets, on the other hand, never gave up.
Even before they started their Game 5 comeback, Murray says he knew they had the momentum. Irrational as this may sound, the Nuggets’ unwavering belief in themselves all season lends credence to it.
We witnessed that in the third game, Murray believes. It was our fault for the loss of that game. Because we were so good, I think they knew it.
The Nuggets have secured a meeting with the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Finals after winning their sixth straight elimination game, tying an NBA record. It’s Game 1 this weekend, so mark your calendars.
A Game 7 appearance was never in the cards for the Nuggets, as head coach Michael Malone made clear. “As crazy as it sounds to anybody outside of our group, we never lost sight of our aim when we started this season: to win a championship.”
Game 7 MVPs Nikola Jokic and Kyle Murray should have plenty of rest time after starting on Friday. While Denver’s star players (Jokic with a triple-double and Murray with a game-high 40 points) put on an incredible show, the team’s defense deserves respect as well.
Denver had already wrapped up the series when the Clippers missed their first field goal of the fourth quarter with 4:58 left on the clock.
In an interview, Jokic added, “We are just not admitting that someone is better than us.
Jokic finished the game with 16 points, 22 rebounds, and 13 assists, dominating the game with his vision and effort despite the Clippers’ frequent double teams limiting his shot attempts to only thirteen. Six 3-pointers and a 15-of-26 field-goal percentage put Murray in a commanding position.
Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, two of the Clippers’ best players, have no such luxury. In total, they scored 24 points on 10-of-38 shooting from the field in Denver.
In the third quarter, Murray and Jokic turned the script, taking all the attention they had received in the first half and distributing it to their teammates, resulting in more open shots. Nuggets role players seized the opportunity, unlike in the first half when they were unable to do so.
Grant, Millsap, and Harris each sank five 3-pointers in the first quarter, erasing an early seven-point deficit and giving the Thunder a commanding lead.
During this time, Jokic honed his surgical skills on the Clippers, slicing them up for six assists to keep the game rolling. The Nuggets went into the fourth quarter leading by 82 points.
Before Tuesday’s elimination game, Malone said he and his teammates were “relaxed,” making light-hearted jokes to bolster his claim.
In Malone’s words, “we’ve never looked at it as putting any strain on ourselves.” “… I’ll know we’re ready when we’re trailing by 16 points in the third quarter.
After scoring 20 points on nine field goals in the second quarter, Murray remained in the game the rest of the way.
Late in the second quarter, the Clippers had a 12-point lead, but Murray scored 11 points in the final 3:57 of the period to cut into the margin. At halftime, the Clippers had a 56-54 advantage over the Denver Nuggets.