Nikola Jokic notched a double-double and scored the go-ahead basket with 27 seconds remaining to lead the Denver Nuggets to an 80-78 win on Tuesday over the Utah Jazz in Game 7 of their first-round playoff series.
Jokic nailed a hook shot in the lane to give the Nuggets the lead. He finished with 30 points on 12-for-23 shooting, 14 rebounds, and four assists.
Denver, the Western Conference’s No. 3 seed, rallied from a 3-1 deficit in the series to eliminate Utah. Nuggets coach Michael Malone’s squad became the 12th team in NBA history to rally from a 3-1 deficit to win a playoff series.
In other NBA playoff action on Tuesday, Jayson Tatum scored 34 points as the Boston Celtics defeated the reigning champion Toronto Raptors 102-99 to take a 2-0 lead in their Eastern Conference semifinal series.
Drama in Florida
The series finale saw the Nuggets squander a 19-point lead, but Nikola Jokic and his teammates found a way to hold off the Jazz.
For Denver, rising star Jamal Murray contributed 17 points in Game 7. He had 50 points in Game 4, 42 in Game 5 and 50 in Game 6 at the NBA bubble in Walt Disney World.
“It was a great battle. I don’t know what else to say. I’m speechless,” Murray said.
The final sequence
After Nikola Jokic’s aforementioned bucket, Utah went for the win, with Mike Conley attempting a 3-pointer at the buzzer. His shot rattled out of the rim.
“Before the series started I felt it was going to be an interesting series,” Jokic told reporters after the game. “But after 3-1 I didn’t think it was going to be this interesting. “So I’m glad that we won the game and I’m glad that we won the series.”
Donovan Mitchell paced Utah with 22 points and Rudy Gobert had 19 points and 18 rebounds.
“It looked good, man. Sometimes, it’s just the way it works,” Mitchell said of Conley’s last shot.
Mitchell added: “We fought hard and came back. I’d go to war with any one of these guys in the locker room, any one of these coaches. We could’ve easy chalked it up in the first half. We have grit and fight. That’s all you can really ask for.”
Next challenge for Jokic, teammates
Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets now shift their focus to the No. 2 seed Los Angeles Clippers for the Western Conference semifinals. Game 1 is on Thursday.
The coach’s viewpoint
How did Malone respond to his team’s latest comeback win?
He demonstrated that he had a sense of humor.
“The locker room was very subdued, very calm,” Malone quipped after the game. “No, of course, it was excitement. We’re the 12th team in NBA history to come back from a 3-1 deficit, and our guys should be proud of that, they should be excited. We get to extend our stay.”
Nikola Jokic coped with COVID-19
Before the NBA restart in Florida, Nikola Jokic tested positive for the coronavirus in his homeland of Serbia.
The 25-year-old big man was “asymptomatic,” his father said, according to published reports, and Jokic made a big impact for the Nuggets in the opening round of the playoffs.