Denver’s dynamic duo of Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic led another stunning turnaround as the Nuggets advanced to the Western Conference finals for the first time since 2009.
Murray scored 40 points, Jokic had a triple-double by the third quarter, and Denver again overcame a double-digit deficit to shock the Los Angeles Clippers, 104-89, in Game 7 on Tuesday night in Orlando.
Denver became the first team in NBA history to rally from a 3-1 series deficit twice in the same postseason.
Even more history: The Nuggets are the third team in the US major pro sports to rally from a pair of 3-1 deficits in the same playoffs, joining the 1985 Kansas City Royals and 2003 Minnesota Wild.
Denver will face LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers in the conference finals.
The 7-foot Jokic had a monster game with 16 points, 13 assists, and 22 rebounds, which were the most by a Nuggets player in an NBA playoff game. He broke his record of 19 that he set last season and shared with Marcus Camby.
In a familiar trend, the Nuggets found themselves down by 12 in the first half. They also trailed, 61-54, with 10:50 let in the third when they caught fire. The Nuggets went on a 35-13 run to build up a 15-point lead in the fourth quarter.
They led by as many as 20.
Murray helped the Nuggets pour it on down the stretch to give coach Michael Malone a 49th birthday present.
The team also rallied back from double-digit margins in their last two games as well to stun the Clippers.
Despite the additions of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, the Clippers fell short of the conference finals, where they’ve never been. They fell to 0-8 all time in games where they could clinch a trip to the conference finals.
Leonard finished with 14 points on 6-of-22 shooting, while George had 10 points on 4-of-16 shooting.
It was Denver’s talented twosome that stole the show.
Jokic insisted the third-seeded Nuggets weren’t feeling any pressure. He said Game 7 was just another game. After all, this was Denver’s fourth straight Game 7 dating to the playoffs last season.
After trailing by as many as 12 in the first half, the Nuggets worked their way back into the game behind the shooting of Murray. He scored 25 before intermission as the Clippers elected to double-team Jokic.
Raptors extend Nurse
Nick Nurse would have been in the final year of his contract next season. The Toronto Raptors weren’t about to let that happen with their coach.
Nurse and the Raptors announced a multiyear extension Tuesday, without divulging the terms. In his two seasons with Toronto, Nurse won the 2019 NBA championship and led the Raptors to more wins than any team in the league over that span.
Nurse was originally signed to a three-year deal in June 2018 to lead the club.
“Our confidence in Nick just continues to grow, and part of that comes from what we’ve experienced together,” Raptors president Masai Ujiri said. "The past two seasons have been unlike any other in our team’s history — first, winning our championship, and then navigating a global pandemic and committing long term to the fight against racism and for social justice.
“Nick has proved that he can coach on the court and lead in life.”
The Raptors went to the Eastern Conference semifinals this season, thriving in the NBA’s restart bubble even after having to come to Florida two weeks early because of the challenges of bringing players back to Canada amid a quarantine. Their run ended Friday night with a Game 7 loss to the Celtics.
Nurse — a Toronto assistant coach for five seasons before getting the top job — was the runaway winner of the NBA’s Coach of the Year award this season, getting 90 of the 100 first-place votes.
“Toronto has been my home for the past seven years, and I look forward to it being home for many more,” Nurse said. “I’ve watched this franchise grow and reach the pinnacle, and I look forward to the challenge of helping us win another championship.”
The Raptors went 53-19 this season, the .736 winning percentage setting a franchise record. Nurse is 111-43 in regular-season games and 23-12 in playoff games and was one of the coaches in this season’s All-Star Game.
Morant unanimous choice
Rookie of the Year Ja Morant of the Grizzlies was the lone unanimous selection to the NBA’s All-Rookie Team that was announced Tuesday.
Morant was a first-team pick on all 100 ballots. Joining him on the first team were Heat guard Kendrick Nunn, Grizzlies forward Brandon Clarke, Pelicans forward Zion Williamson, and Warriors forward Eric Paschall.
The second-team picks were Heat guard Tyler Herro, Raptors guard Terence Davis, Bulls guard Coby White, Hornets forward P.J. Washington, and Wizards forward Rui Hachimura.
Paschall edged Herro by one point for the last first-team spot.