The Denver Nuggets are making a habit of winning Game 6s in this year’s playoffs.
First, coach Mike Malone’s team stormed past the Utah Jazz 119-107 in the first round of the NBA playoffs. The Nuggets then ended the Jazz’s season with a victory in Game 7 of their first-round series on Sept. 1.
Then, on Sunday, the Nuggets outplayed the Los Angeles Clippers in Game 6 of the Western Conference semifinals at the NBA bubble in Florida, winning convincingly, 111-98.
Can Denver overcome a 3-1 series deficit in back-to-back series to reach the Western Conference finals?
That answer will arrive in Game 7 on Tuesday.
A balanced scoring attack carried the Denver Nuggets in a must-win game. Nikola Jokic scored a game-high 34 points, Jamal Murray had 21, Gary Harris finished with 16, Michael Porter Jr. provided 13, and Monte Morris added 10.
A resilient team
The Denver Nuggets are 5-0 in elimination games in this year’s playoffs.
“I’m running out of adjectives, superlatives, whatever you want to call it to speak on our team,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “That is a tough, resilient group of you-know-whats. I love our team. … I love our toughness.”
For the Clippers, Paul George scored a team-high 33 points and Kawhi Leonard had 25. Lou Williams chipped in with 14 points.
In Saturday’s NBA playoff action, the Boston Celtics topped the reigning champion Toronto Raptors 92-87 in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinal series. Boston will face the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference finals.
Denver Nuggets rise to occasion
In forcing a Game 7, the Denver Nuggets stepped up with everything on the line against the Los Angeles Clippers.
“I don’t know how we did it, to be honest,” said Jokic, who grabbed 14 rebounds and handed out seven assists. “That’s an amazing team. They are really talented, well-coached. They’re really scary.”
Clippers coach Doc Rivers summed up his team’s performance this way: “It’s frustrating.
He continued: “Listen, when you decide to be a coach it’s not going to be roses every day. We clearly have the right formula as far as how we’re playing and then we keep losing it.”
Key stretch for the Denver Nuggets
Malone’s team faced a 63-44 deficit entering the third quarter.
In seizing momentum after the intermission, the Denver Nuggets outscored the Los Angeles Clippers 62-27 during a 20-minute chunk of the second half.
The Denver Nuggets fought back and kept the focus on themselves in the second half.
“That’s the nature of our team,” Nuggets guard Jamal Murray said after the game. “We can have a bad half and we can come back just as quick.”
Said Malone: “Nikola is a guy that never gets rattled. He never looks desperate. There’s no, ‘OK, he looks like he’s losing his poise’ and now everybody else does. He’s just a picture of calmness, of steadiness, and then he puts the team on his back and makes some of the plays he makes.”
Kawhi Leonard’s perspective
After playing a pivotal role in the Toronto Raptors’ championship run last season, Leonard knows what the Clippers must do on Tuesday against the Nuggets.
“Just got to leave it all out on the floor and make sure we are paying attention to detail and executing and communicating on the defensive end,” Leonard concluded, looking ahead to Game 7. “And that’s all we can do, go out there and play hard and just make sure we know the game plan.”