DENVER – The Denver Nuggets watched a 17-point lead to San Antonio Spurs, and suddenly Game 7 and what had been an incredible 54-win season on the verge of slipping away.
But then Nuggets guard Jamal Murray rose up and sank a beautiful rainbow jumper. Torrey Craig flew in and out of the Spurs' DeMar DeRozan on a drive to the basket.
Denver's deafening home-court advantage paid off as the Pepsi Center crowds out Gregg Popovich's helpless pleas for LaMarcus Aldridge to foul in the final 20 seconds, with San Antonio trailing by four, and the Nuggets held on to win 90-86 in a tense Game 7.
Now the second-seeded nuggets face Damian Lillard and the third- seeded Portland Trail Blazers with Game 1 on Monday night in Denver. Nikola Jokic, who is thrilling on the playoff stage.
In Game 1, Jokic became the fourth player to collect a triple-double in his first playoff game. And on Saturday, he finished the series by collecting the first triple-double in a Game 7 since LeBron James in the 2016 finals with 21 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists.
"And win," Jokic said of his performance while citing the most important statistic for him. It's just really good stats. "[ImeanIthinkI'mjustgoingoutthereandtryingtoplaymybestbasketball19659002] After watching Jokic's average 23.1 points, 12.1 rebounds and 9.1 assists in the series, Popovich says Jokic's rising star.
"He's magnificent." Magnificent, "Popovich said. "I'll Just Leave It At That."
Unfortunately for Popovich, his team had an uncharacteristic failure to execute in the final seconds after an inspired comeback. The Spurs opened Game 7 shooting a horrendous 10-for-45 (22.2 percent) in the first half. In the first quarter, the Spurs 'starters scored only two of the Spurs' 13 points.
"Tonight was an odd game," said Popovich, "Who's in the last season." of his contract and did not address questions about his future. "I thought both teams set basketball back in the first half."
The sellout crowd of 19,725 what filled with anxiety when the Nuggets' shot 29.2 percent in the fourth quarter, allowing the spurs to nearly come back from a 67-50 deficit. Bryan Forbes left the scene with a shotgun on the left, but then Murray, who has been battling leg and shoulder injuries, drained a jumper on one leg over Aldridge.
After DeRozan – who had 19 points , 8 rebounds and 6 assists – what's up, the spurs did not foul to stop the clock and send the nuggets to the free throw line to prolong the game. Instead, Aldridge stood in his defensive stance at the top of the key and failed to hear Alfridge, who was shouting from the sideline and using his arms in an attempt to get Aldridge to foul. Spurs teammates also yelled to foul.
"Well, obviously he did not hear anybody, because he did not foul," Popovich said.
Said Aldridge: "The crowd was loud. I missed it, that's it. "
Point guard Patty Mills had a brief opportunity to foul but not with five people already. That allowed Denver to milk the clock to 4.9 seconds before Murray (23 points) beat the shot clock with a jumper that missed.
Afterward, Denver coach Michael Malone told Nuggets president and governor Josh Kroenke how he remembered when he took the Nuggets job how empty the Pepsi Center used to be.
"Malone said of the Nuggets' arena in past years. "Really … to see a game 7 at home and advancing to the second round for the first time in a while, is incredible." 19659002] "It's almost surreal at times."
Tim Connelly, the Nuggets' president of basketball operations, took his guard Denver's first playoff series, Gary Harris victory since coach George Karl was roaming the sidelines in 2008-09.
"We believe," Harris said. "We believed all summer. We believed all season. We knew we were a special team. It started after Game 82 last year. "
" We could not get anybody in the first bowl. " … but we're not satisfied. "