With both of their backs against the wall, the Los Angeles Clippers and Denver Nuggets came in ready to duke it out for a spot in the Western Conference Finals.
Both Paul George and Kawhi Leonard started the game slowly, combining for five points in the first quarter.
Nikola Jokic, on the other hand, continued his strong play. He was the lynchpin in the first quarter with eight points, six rebounds, and four assists as the two teams headed into the second quarter tied 24-24.
The Clippers started the second quarter strong, using a 14-4 run to take a 38-29 lead. The Nuggets, as they’ve done in the last two games, weren’t disturbed by the lead and fought back to cut it to a 56-54 advantage for the Clippers at halftime.
Denver took a 64-61 lead with 8:17 left in the third quarter thanks to a jumper from Jokic. They pushed the lead to 73-65 with a little over five minutes left in the third.
The Nuggets outscored the Clippers 28-18 in the third quarter to take an 82-74 lead heading into the final quarter. The only unfortunate mark for them was Jokic getting his fourth foul.
By this point, George and Leonard were a combined 10 of 27 from the field. The Clippers needed to get something big from their superstars. They had little time to earn their way into the Conference Finals for the first time in franchise history.
Doc Rivers said to an interviewer in between quarters that the plan was to “Get shots, get stops.”
They got neither.
There wasn’t a bucket until two minutes were up in the quarter, with Jamal Murray hitting a shot to make it 84-74. Another two quick buckets made it an 89-74 lead for the underdogs.
Nikola Jokic came into the fourth quarter for the first time with 7:27 left, and his team still had an 89-76 advantage.
With 4:09 left in the game, the lead was 93-78, and the Clippers didn’t look like they could summon any miracles.
The Nuggets pushed that lead to 100-80 with 2:10 remaining, effectively putting the game out of reach. The game finished 104-89.
Jamal Murray blew up again in Game 7, leading the Nuggets in scoring with 40 points, four rebounds, and five assists. Jokic had a triple-double with 16 points, 22 rebounds,13 assists, two steals and three blocks.
There are no excuses for the Clippers. They were heavily favored, got outplayed, didn’t make shots, and couldn’t find any answers on defense. George and Leonard completed the game shooting 10 of 38.
The Nuggets deserved to win this game. They showed the heart of a champion for the second straight series and made their mark in history by being the only team to ever win back-to-back Game 7s in the same postseason.
Wherever they go from here, this year’s run for the Nuggets deserves to be remembered.