Denver’s Nikola Jokic had game highs of 34 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists yesterday, powering the Nuggets over the Los Angeles Clippers 111-98 to level their NBA playoff series.
The Nuggets, who also had 21 points from Jamal Murray and Gary Harris, recovered from a 19-point deficit in the third quarter to match the Clippers at 3-3 in the Western Conference semifinal, setting up a winner-take-all Game Seven tomorrow.
“We don’t have pressure,” Jokic said. “All the pressure is on them. We have to play at a high level and give our best.”
It’s the fourth consecutive playoff series over two seasons in which the Nuggets have faced a seventh game. They are 5-0 in elimination games and have rallied from 16-point or worse deficits in the past three such games.
The 25-year-old 7-foot (2.13m) Serbian center hit 13-of-22 shots, 4-of-6 from 3-point range and 4-of-5 from the free throw line.
The Clippers, who have squandered a 3-1 series edge, have never reached a conference final in their 50-year history. They missed 10 shots in a row in the third period during a 17-0 Nuggets run.
“They came down and scored or got fouled in the third quarter and we couldn’t buy a basket,” Clippers star Kawhi Leonard said.
“We’ve just got to leave it all out on the floor, communicate and play hard on the defensive end.”
Paul George scored 33 points and Leonard, last year’s NBA Finals Most Valuable Player for Toronto, added 25 to lead the Clippers, who were outscored 64-35 in the second half.
“It was beautiful playing,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “Then we stopped moving the ball, stopped playing. That’s what let them get back in the game.
“We clearly have the right formula. We just lost it. We lost our pace.”*AFP