Nuggets Win OT Thriller Over Bucks to Move One Game Out of Playoff Spot
It was simply one of the wildest games you’ll ever see.
The Nuggets made it one of the most memorable wins of the season.
“I was telling someone after the game, this is the craziest game I’ve ever been a part of, or maybe even watched,” forward Torrey Craig said. “We go up and then they go up on another run, and then we start coming back, their star player gets ejected, we get a steal, hit free throws and even the last sequence with Malik (Beasley) shooting the free throws. It was just a whirlwind of emotion and all types of things.”
And that’s about as quickly and succinctly the Nuggets thrilling 128-125 overtime win over the Milwaukee Bucks could be captured. The game had every twist and turn and an ending no one could see coming.
And it was the result the Nuggets needed.
Sunday was a big day in boosting the Nuggets’ Western Conference playoff hopes. They won. Minnesota, New Orleans and the Clippers all lost. The Clippers loss, which happened before the Nuggets’ game started meant Denver moved up from 10th to ninth place without raising a finger. The Nuggets win puts the Clippers – who own a tiebreaker over Denver – in the rearview mirror for the moment.
The Pelicans and Timberwolves losses mean the Nuggets are now just one game back for the eighth spot in the playoff race. The Nuggets do own a tiebreaker over the Pelicans, and if they win every game from here to the end of the season – will qualify for the playoffs by virtue of a tiebreaker over Minnesota. They have two games left against the Timberwolves.
Setting all of this in motion, however, took the comeback of the season.
With 7:34 left in the fourth quarter, after a Giannis Antetokounmpo jumper, the Nuggets were down 18 points, 102-84. But they had one last push.
A 13-5 run got them to within 10 points – 107-97 – at what turned out to be a pivotal point in the game. Antetokounmpo fouled out at that time, 3:43 to play. He picked up a technical foul on his way out. Without their leading scorer, the Bucks scored just four points in the rest of regulation.
Meanwhile, the Nuggets chipped away at the deficit. They were down just 111-108 and had the ball with 5.8 seconds left, needing a 3-pointer to tie. But instead, Paul Millsap, who was in the midst of having a great game, lost the inbounds pass, turning the ball back over to the Bucks.
Things looked bleak. Turns out, they weren’t.
Murray made the play of the game, stealing the ensuing inbounds pass and then was fouled shooting a 3-pointer. With 2.8 seconds to play in the fourth quarter, he needed all three free throws to tie the game.
Game tied. Momentum squarely with the Nuggets. Overtime was up next.
“You keep playing,” Murray said. “You play until there are all zeroes on the clock. There’s always a chance, and if you want to be a championship-type team, you have to play to the end. You can’t give up and say, ‘it’s over now,’ or give into the situation. You’ve got to make the situation happen.”
With a new lease on their basketball lives, the Nuggets took advantage in overtime. The extra frame had its fair share of nail-biting moments as well, but when Malik Beasley made two free throws with 7.1 seconds left – and then made a great defensive play to prevent a desperation Jabari Parker 3-pointer – the game was won. Everyone could exhale.
“That was a helluva win,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “To have a great second quarter, come into halftime feeling good about yourselves; and that third quarter – I remember calling a timeout and saying ‘Fellas, we’re not competing. We’re not moving, we’re walking it up, we’re standing around and we’re giving in.’”
“Just keep on fighting,” he said. “And we did that in the fourth quarter.”
Murray scored 18 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter and overtime. He added seven assists. Nikola Jokic turned in another big game with 35 points, 13 rebounds and five assists. Millsap had a third-straight game of at least 20 points, finishing with 25 points, 13 rebounds and five assists. Will Barton was the third Nuggets player with a double-double, chipping in 11 points and 10 rebounds.
The Nuggets survived a huge night from Milwaukee’s Parker, who had a game-high 35 points and 10 rebounds off the bench.
“Every win right now is huge,” Malone said. “The last two games, the fashion that we’ve won has really been incredible and I think it really speaks to our growth as a team.”
Christopher Dempsey: firstname.lastname@example.org and @chrisadempsey on Twitter