The Denver Nuggets’ deep postseason run in these NBA playoffs is now nothing short of historic. Today, they clinched their sixth straight win-or-go-home game in the same playoffs and became the first franchise in league history to win two series after being down 1-3. In five of those games – today’s Game 7 against the L.A. Clippers included – Denver was down by a double-digit margin and still managed to turn things around and escape elimination.
When Kawhi Leonard drove to the basket and scored with 4:36 remaining in the second quarter, both teams were in familiar territory – the Clippers led in double figures (50-38), and the Nuggets were preparing to mount a comeback. And come back they did.
Jamal Murray’s scoring spree kept them alive and Nikola Jokić was being Nikola Jokić – doing a little bit of everything for his team as Denver patiently chipped away at the deficit.
Murray scored 20 points in the second quarter, helping the Nuggets trim the Clippers’ lead to two by halftime. At the end of the day, the Denver guard was the game’s top scorer with 40 points and Jokić logged in another incredible triple-double (16 points, 22 rebounds, 13 assists), adding three blocks and two steals for good measure.
Asked by ESPN’s Rachel Nichols after the game, what these Nuggets had that no other team in NBA history had had, Denver’s young stars praised team effort.
“We got squad, we believe in each other, man,” Murray said.
The Serbian big man revealed he had delivered a pre-game speech in the locker room.
“I had a talk before the game and I did it like ‘Whatever we do, I’m gonna remember this team’ … this is a special crew. Nobody wants us here, nobody thinks that we can do something. And we proved ourselves and everybody [else] that we can do something,” said Jokić.
Denver is now facing the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference final, which begins Friday, Sept. 18.
“Another tough opponent for us, but we’re just gonna go out there and have fun,” the center said.
Nichols labeled Denver’s key players’ chemistry “incredible” in the postseason, and Jokić explained there is a lot more behind it that goes beyond just one playoffs campaign.
“It’s not just [this] season, it’s a lot of years. I mean, we are just improving. We have a talk, we have fights, we have everything. I think, we’re like a couple, just not that close,” laughed Jokić.
In Game 6, Murray took a hard fall and even had an MRI to make sure there was no internal bleeding, but in Game 7 he never showed his health was a concern.
“It depends a lot on how you think about it. We took a hit, down 3-1, but like I said – we’re resilient, we fought back, and we put them under pressure. And like the Joker said yesterday, we played with no pressure … Tonight, it was a collective effort, it is not just a one-two punch, we have a whole squad that can really hoop and get the job done,” explained Murray.
The Lakers, led by LeBron James and Anthony Davis, are tough to match and heavily favored to win the West, but the young Nuggets team will make sure it’s ready for the challenge.
“They’re gonna worry about us, too,” said Murray.
Jokić added there was no use thinking about the Lakers, “if we think about them, it’s gonna be a long night for us”.
His recipe for preparing for the Lakers is somewhat simpler – show effort and have fun on the court.