Denver Nuggets beat the LA Clippers 104-89 in Game 7 of the Western semis, coming back from a 3-1 deficit and advancing to the next round. Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic blew away the Clips’ superstars, recording masterful performances.
Murray had 40 points, while Jokic posted a triple-double, with both presenting enigmas to the opposite side. Nuggets’ head coach Michael Malone was thrilled after the game, not only because of the win but because his boys shut down all the doubters.
“Those guys stepped up on the biggest moment,” said Malone. “You find out a lot about people in these moments. Man, did we pass the character test or what?”
The Clippers once again had a double-digit lead, and they wasted it like in the previous matches. Once Kawhi scored a layup with 4:36 until the break, the LAC was up 50-38. But that lead didn’t last too long.
Denver went on an 11-2 run, to close the halftime, continuing to roar throughout the third quarter. Once they took the lead with Jerami Grant’s three 3:05 into the same, there was no looking back for them. Once again, the Nuggets stopped the Clippers in the closing two sequences, allowing just 33 points.
That third period was the key, with Jamal Murray keeping the high pace, and Jokic posting six assists.
At the end of the night, Murray had 40 points, 15-for-26, adding five assists and four rebounds. Jokic, meanwhile, scored 16 buckets, had 22 rebounds and 13 assists, becoming the only player to have two Game 7 triple-doubles in his career.
The Joker claimed that all this was because of his coach, who celebrated his 49th birthday today.
“Before the game, I told him, ‘Coach, I’m going to give you a really good present. I’m going to get you home, or I’m going to get you to the conference finals,” the Serbian player said.
Nikola Jokic tonight became the first player in NBA playoff history to record a 20+ rebound triple-double in a Game 7.
Entering tonight, no player had recorded a triple-double through three quarters of a Game 7 over the last 25 years. pic.twitter.com/uzMFnfB6LK
— NBA.com/Stats (@nbastats) September 16, 2020
Jerami Grant and Gary Harris had 14 apiece.
The Clippers two stars had a terrible night. Leonard and George scored 24 points in total, with the Claw posting 14 and PG 10. Their shooting in the final 12 minutes was horrendous – 0-11. Overall, Kawhi was 6-for-22 tonight, and George 4-for-16, hitting two threes in 11 shots.
“It hurts. It hurts. But we move on,” Paul George said. “Year 1 together, first run together, of course, we wanted to win this. But we’ve been very optimistic about us being together and building something going down the road.”
Once he and Kawhi landed in LA, many saw them as the No.1 favorites to win the title, even before the Lakers and the Bucks. With the already present core, including Lou Williams, NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year, Patrick Beverly, and Doc Rivers as the head coach, the Clippers did look frightening.
But it seems that they lacked the chemistry to finish the job in the playoffs. Jokic was telling after Game 7 that his side doesn’t feel any pressure, unlike LAC, which was probably true. In all the moments when they had the matchpoint, Clips choke. Simple as that.
The Nuggets will clash with another team from LA in the conference finals, the Lakers. The last time these two franchises reached this stage was in 2009, and purple and gold defeated Melo and the crew in five games. After that, they experienced frustrating seasons until now.
The series are starting this Friday, with the Lakers coming in as massive favorites. The Clippers, too, were projected to handle the Nuggets routinely, but like so many times before, Jokic, Murray, and the rest of the bunch fought against all the odds. We’ll see if they have the strength to repeat that one more time.
Nikola Velickovic is a sports journalist who loves to write and read on all sports. Nikola contributes both news updates and functions as a sports breaking news writer at WagerBop.