Denver Nuggets 111-98 Los Angeles Clippers: Three takeaways
Stop us if this sounds familiar.
The Nuggets have tied up a Western Conference playoff series after falling behind 3-1. This time, Denver which became the 12th team in NBA postseason history to overcome that deficit when they won three-straight in the first-round against the Utah Jazz, is one win away from doing it again after an impressive 111-98 win over the Clippers to face a Game 7 in the conference semifinals.
Nikola Jokić continued his dominant run against the Clippers, putting up 34 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists to help the Nuggets overturn a 16-point deficit and steal Game 6. Paul George paced Los Angeles with 33 points, six boards and five steals.
"I'm running out of adjectives, superlatives, whatever you want to call it, to speak on our team because that is a tough, resilient group," Nuggets head coach Michael Malone said. "I love our team, I love our toughness."
All attention now turns to win-or-go-home contest for both teams, which will be played on Tuesday (7 p.m. MT)
Here are the takeaways:
Dynamic Duo delivers once again
In a matchup that featured several All-Stars, it was Jokić who shined the brightest in Game 6. The center has been calm and collected throughout the playoffs, never getting flustered and his internal confidence inspired his team to tie up the series at three games apiece.
Jokić dazzled with an array of inside and outside moves that constantly disrupted the Clippers’ defense. The 25-year-old attacked the low post and when he was doubled, he would kick out to his teammates for easy opportunities. When he couldn’t get to the rim, he would excel with his long-range shot, hitting 4 of 6 threes.
"Tonight, Nikola Jokić was the best player in the world," Michael Porter Jr. said after the game.
"I thought he was too," Jamal Murray added, "He's hitting one-legged stepbacks -- fading away on leg with a hand in his face."
Entering the series, the expectation was that the Nuggets would have an advantage in frontcourt due to Jokić. He has more than delivered on that.
As good as Jokić was, he got another strong performance from his costar — Murray.
When Murray was taken down to the court on a controversial contest by Paul George, a play where no foul was given, it appeared as if it might curtail his effectiveness. However, akin to the Paul Millsap-Marcus Morris scuffle in Game 5, Murray used it as a moment to elevate his assertiveness.
"Even if he had a broken rib or whatever, he will continue for sure," Jokić said of Murray staying in the game after the knock.
Murray would score 11 of his 21 points in the final 24 minutes of the contest and more impressively, he focused on attacking downhill more. All of the guard’s six attempts in the second half came inside of the three-point line, with three going directly at the basket. His relentlessness was apparent when he went in for a furious slam. That play appeared to inspire the rest of his teammates, who would power on for a 13-point win.
A second half for the ages
Down by 16 (again) entering the third quarter, the Nuggets managed a familiar situation with a poise that belies the team’s age. Denver is the youngest team remaining in the postseason, but that factor has almost played to the benefit as it has played loose and confident against Los Angeles in Game 6. There’s a reason why the team is 5-0 when facing elimination this postseason.
The Nuggets went on a 17-0 run midway in the quarter to bring the deficit to 79-77. The team’s starters were the catalyst of the run as the group was responsible for 27 of Denver’s 30 points in the quarter. That momentum would carry into the fourth quarter as the Nuggets would extend that run to 27-6 and give the team its first lead since the first quarter with a 82-79 advantage.
"That third quarter was one of the best third quarters I can ever remember in my five years [as Nuggets coach]," Malone said.
Denver would outscore Los Angeles 64-35 in the final 24 minutes
Gary Harris had arguably his best performance of the playoffs, highlighting how his return has played a significant part of how the Nuggets have been able to stave off elimination for two-straight series.
Harris has provided a rugged toughness on defense since his return for Denver in Game 6 of the first round series against Utah. In a positive development, his offense appears to be returning to its best as well. The Nuggets shooting guard finished Game 6 by pouring in 12 of his 16 points in the second half. His two timely three-pointers were a big reason why the team was able to put up 34 points against the Clippers’ vaunted defense.
"Gary Harris hit three threes in the fourth quarter allowed us to get that win," Malone explained. "We took our time [in] getting him back [on the court], allowing him to get healthy [and] get confidence back...[Against] Utah, [Gary] was [focused] more on the defense. Tonight and [during] this series, it has been [on] both ends of the floor. That's why we love Gary because that's what he brings to the table."