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Gary Harris' Buzzer Beater Powers Nuggets Past Thunder 124-127
The crowd lingered. And buzzed. And smiled. And cheered. It takes time to process the ending of all endings, which Gary Harris had authored just moments before. So, the fans exhaled, and lingered, and soaked in every drop.
Meanwhile, the Nuggets’ locker room was a madhouse. Harris was swarmed under by jubilant teammates. Hoots and hollers and screams of pure joy – and yes, a bit of relief – could be heard. This was the ending of all endings. Harris hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to lift the Nuggets to a thrilling 127-124 victory over Oklahoma City on Thursday night at the Pepsi Center.
After the shot went through the net? Harris sprinted off the court in glee. Just as he had six years earlier, when he nailed a walk-off shot to win a high school playoff game. Must be something about this month of February.
“Joker threw a helluva pass and I was able to get off a good look,” Harris said. “It felt good. I knew it was going in.”
It did, and with it came validation that the positive play of the previous two games did not go unrewarded. The Nuggets suffered difficult last-second defeats to Boston and San Antonio, but put on a smile through both, insisting that if they played that type of basketball in the future, wins would be the result.
Well. The future was Thursday.
“To hit that shot, I’m just so happy for our players,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “They’ve been working and doing everything we’ve asked, and for them to not give up, not quit, and win the game at the buzzer like that is a phenomenal win in front of a tremendous home crowd tonight.”
Harris’ shot capped off a fourth quarter of some of the biggest clutch shot-making any NBA game has seen this season. With 3:46 to play, Jamal Murray hit a 3-pointer. The Nuggets were up 114-106 at that point. At the same time, Russell Westbrook had piled up the assists – over 20 – but he was 3-of-14 from the field. The Nuggets had complete control of things all night long, never trailing in the game and it had also never been tied.
But that all changed in a whirlwind three minutes.
Oklahoma City never missed another shot. It made seven straight baskets from Westbrook’s 3-point shot at 3:05 until Paul George tied the game for the first time with a 3-pointer with 2.2 seconds to play. Four of those shots were 3-pointers.
And the Nuggets were forced to hold on.
The Nuggets made four straight shots of their own to keep the Thunder at bay. Murray was in the middle of it all, making big shot after big shot in the fourth quarter. He had 10 of his team-high 33 points in the final frame. Nikola Jokić had six points in the fourth as well.
“Coming off of two losses at the buzzer, to have one go right for us was big,” Murray said.
Huge statistics were everywhere in this game. Murray’s 33 points. Jokić had a major triple-double of 29 points, 14 assists and 13 rebounds. Harris finished with 25 points. Westbrook nearly had a triple-double of his own with 20 points, 21 assists and nine rebounds. George led all scorers with 43 points.
This was just the second game in NBA history to have a 40-point scorer, a player with a triple-double and a player with at least 20 assists. The Nuggets also knocked in 15 3-pointers during the game to improve to 20-7 at home and 27-25 overall. They’re now leading the season series against the Thunder, 2-1.
“We needed that,” Malone said. “And I felt we deserved that game, I really do.”
Christopher Dempsey: firstname.lastname@example.org and @chrisadempsey on Twitter