LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — 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.
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 U.S. 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.
Nuggets: Jerami Grant and Gary Harris each had 14 points.
Clippers: G Landry Shamet turned his right ankle in the first quarter, limped down the floor, hit a 3-pointer and then hobbled to the locker room. He returned just before halftime. ... Montrezl Harrell led the Clippers with 20 points.
The Nuggets coaching staff went with their customary all-black outfits (a nod to singer Johnny Cash). The Clippers wore salmon-colored polo shirts that have been lucky for them inside the bubble.
Just coaches being a little superstitious.
“I worked with coaches that knew the record of the ties they wore,” Malone said. “Yes, we are a weird group. We’ll look at any advantage necessary. As the jump ball goes up, it doesn’t matter what we’re wearing.”
Heat hold off Celtics
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Jayson Tatum thought he had a dunk to tie the game.
Bam Adebayo had other ideas — and in the biggest moment of his young NBA career, Miami’s All-Star big man more than rose to the occasion.
Jimmy Butler’s three-point play with 12 seconds left put Miami ahead for good, Adebayo finished it off with a stunning rejection of Tatum at the rim on the ensuing Boston possession, and the Heat struck first in the Eastern Conference finals with a 117-114 win in Game 1 on Tuesday night.
“When you have great competition like this, you just have to make plays that you can’t even really explain,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “And that was Bam tonight.”
The Heat were down by 13 in the opening minutes, down by 14 in the final quarter and felt like a bad call took the lead from them in the final seconds. They found a way in overtime, improving to an NBA-best 9-1 so far in these playoffs.
Goran Dragic scored 29 points, Jae Crowder scored 22, Butler had 20 and Adebayo had 18. But even after a night when Butler made a go-ahead 3-pointer late in regulation and had the go-ahead-for-good points again in overtime, he pointed at Adebayo for his favorite moment.
“Bam. That seals the game for us,” Butler said. “I love how he does any and everything that you ask him to do. I really do. You ask him to pass the ball, he does that. Score, he does that. Come up with a huge defensive stop, block, he does that. He’s a huge part to our winning. I’ve been saying it all year long and I’ll repeat it again.”
Kemba Walker’s basket with 23.2 seconds left in overtime put Boston up by one, before Butler muscled his way to the rim for a score while getting fouled by Tatum. The Celtics went to Tatum on the ensuing possession, only to watch him get denied by Adebayo.
“He made a great play,” Tatum said. “That’s all it is. ... Can’t do anything about it.”
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