With the Denver Nuggets down 15 heading to the locker room at halftime and their season on the road in Recreation 6, coach Mike Malone knew he had an enormous speech forward of him. And, apparently, he delivered.
“This one was my finest one ever,” he stated jokingly. “It was my finest one ever.”
What Malone did discuss, although, was that the Nuggets had been in that scenario earlier than. And for a second straight recreation, they rallied from a double-digit deficit — this time, 19 factors — to beat the LA Clippers, 111-98, forcing a Recreation 7 on Tuesday.
“That is the character of our staff,” guard Jamal Murray stated. “We will have a nasty half and we are able to come again simply as fast.”
Denver did it with a dominant second half, the rating nearly trying like a typo: Nuggets 64, Clippers 35.
“We weren’t down on ourselves,” Malone stated. “We knew what it was going to take to get out of that gap.
“I’m operating out of adjectives, superlatives, no matter you need to name it, to talk on our staff. As a result of that may be a powerful, resilient group of you recognize what. I really like our staff.”
The Nuggets have discovered a consolation zone being backed up in opposition to elimination, getting back from a 3-1 deficit of their opening spherical in opposition to the Jazz, and now pushing the Clippers to a Recreation 7 after falling behind 3-1. They’re additionally used to Recreation 7s. Courting again to final postseason, the Nuggets have now performed in 4 straight collection which have gone all the best way to seven video games — the primary time that has ever occurred in NBA historical past. And this postseason, the Nuggets are actually 5-Zero when dealing with elimination.
“I believe what it comes all the way down to is an inside perception, an inside confidence,” Malone stated. “We began off coaching camp again in September in Colorado Springs speaking about profitable a championship. And we nonetheless have those self same objectives. We have by no means overlooked that. 4 months throughout the hiatus, coming again into the bubble, attempting to get wholesome — we have at all times felt that we have been adequate. Nobody else does. However we do not care. We do not hearken to the noise. We have at all times had this inside perception in ourselves and our collective group that we’re adequate to win a championship.”
It was a strikingly related scenario to Recreation 5 the place the Clippers held a 16-point lead on the Nuggets, solely to observe it slip away as Murray and Nikola Jokic took over. The duo mixed for 65 factors on Sunday, with Murray’s powerful play serving as inspiration and Jokic hitting ridiculous slow-motion, one-legged fadeaway daggers down the stretch. Within the two comeback wins, Murray and Jokic have mixed for nearly as many second-half factors (82) as all the Clippers (84).
“Nikola is a man that by no means will get rattled. He by no means appears determined,” Malone stated. “There isn’t any, ‘OK, he appears like he is shedding his poise’ and now everyone else does. He is only a image of calmness, of steadiness, after which he places the staff on his again and makes among the performs he makes.”
A turning level got here within the third quarter after Paul George blocked a layup on the rim, touchdown on Murray and leaving the Denver guard writhing in ache on the bottom. George hit a Three on the opposite finish. That alternate gave the Clippers their largest lead of 19. From that time on, the Nuggets outscored the Clippers 28-11 to shut the third, placing them again within the recreation.
“It harm, it harm rather a lot. I used to be going to return out,” Murray stated. “However not in Recreation 6. Not in an elimination recreation. Not when my staff wanted me. They usually had my again. All people’s speaking about me, however I did not do nothing. All people got here in and did their job and extra.”
With Murray battling by way of ache, the Nuggets appeared to Jokic to shut. And the Serbian large man delivered, scoring 34 factors on 13-of-22 taking pictures, together with 4-of-6 from 3. It did not matter who the Clippers threw at him; Jokic bought what he needed.
“He is hitting one-leg step-backs, fading away off one leg with a hand in his face consecutive instances, so I would say he is one of the best participant on this planet [tonight],” Murray stated of Jokic. “It was a staff effort, however Joker positively carried us all through the sport.”
Malone stated after the Nuggets misplaced Recreation Four to fall into the 3-1 gap that the main focus can be the identical it was in opposition to the Jazz: Win the subsequent recreation. The Nuggets delight themselves on toughness and resilience, and regardless of the problem of profitable three straight in opposition to the favored Clippers, Malone appreciated their possibilities.
And even with the double-digit gap they have been in on Sunday, the Nuggets by no means misplaced perception.
“I do not understand how we did it, that is an incredible staff,” Jokic stated. “They’re actually proficient, effectively coached. They’re actually scary.”
Because the collection turns to a winner-take-all Recreation 7, the Clippers are confronted with a attainable collapse that might hang-out the franchise. They have been right here earlier than, too, however on the opposite facet of it: They’re 0-7 all-time in video games with an opportunity to clinch a berth within the convention finals.
“We do not have stress,” Jokic stated. “I believe the entire stress is on them.”