Gritty Jokic, Nuggets force Game 7 vs Clippers

For the fourth consecutive time in the playoffs, the Denver Nuggets will play in a Game 7.

The Nuggets dragged the Los Angeles Clippers to a rubber match of their NBA Western Conference semifinals series with a rousing 111-98 win on Sunday, September 13 (Monday, September 14, Manila time).

Nikola Jokic churned out 34 points, 14 rebounds, and 7 assists as the Nuggets, who once trailed 1-3 in the best-of-seven affair, stayed alive anew behind a scorching second-half display.

"We don't have pressure," Jokic said. "All the pressure is on them. We have to play at a high level and give our best.

"To us it's just another Game 7. We're going to go out there and play."

It's the fourth consecutive playoff series over two seasons in which the Nuggets have faced a seventh game. They are 5-0 in elimination games and have rallied from 16-point or worse deficits in the past 3 such games.

The Clippers were primed to wrap up the series and reach the conference finals for the first time in NBA history after seizing a 63-47 halftime lead.

But the Nuggets, with Jokic and Jamal Murray showing the way, shaved their deficit to just a single possession going into the final fame, 77-79, as the Clippers crumbled in winning time.

"It was beautiful playing," Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. "Then we stopped moving the ball, stopped playing. That's what let them get back in the game.

"We clearly have the right formula. We just lost it. We lost our pace."

Jokic scored 11 points in the 4th quarter, including back-to-back three-pointers that gave the Nuggets a 91-84 lead and the momentum to cruise to the 13-point victory.

The Nuggets outscored the Clippers 64-35 in the second half.

Murray backstopped Jokic with 21 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2 steals, Gary Harris had 16 points, 4 assists, and 4 steals, while rookie Michael Porter Jr added 13 points and 7 rebounds for the Nuggets.

Paul George led the Clippers with 33 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 steals, but the Nuggets' defense held him to just 6 fourth-quarter points.

Kawhi Leonard chimed in 25 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2 steals in the loss as no other Clippers starter scored in double figures.

Booted by the Portland Trail Blazers in the same stage last season after 7 gritty games, the Nuggets will try to get over the hump this time as they seek their first conference finals appearance since 2009.

"I'm running out of superlatives to say about our team. I love our team. I love our toughness," Nuggets coach Michael Malone said.

"We were down 16 at half. We weren't down on ourselves. We knew what we were going to have to go through. The question was how are we going to get out of it.

"One of the best 3rd quarters I can ever remember in my 5 years." – with a report from Agence France-Presse

Delfin Dioquino

Delfin Dioquino dreamt of being a PBA player, but he did not have the skills to make it. So he pursued the next best thing to being an athlete – to write about them. He took up journalism at the University of Santo Tomas and joined Rappler as soon as he graduated in 2017.