NBA: Denver hangs on in wild finish, ousts Utah in Game 7

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Posted at Sep 02 2020 11:07 AM | Updated as of Sep 02 2020 11:24 AM

NBA: Denver hangs on in wild finish, ousts Utah in Game 7 1
Nikola Jokic (15) of the Denver Nuggets reacts to play during Game 7 of the first round of the NBA Playoffs on September 1, 2020 at AdventHealth Arena in Orlando, Florida. Andrew D. Bernstein, NBAE via Getty Images/AFP

(UPDATED) The Denver Nuggets survived a chaotic ending to defeat the Utah Jazz, 80-78, in a thrilling Game 7 of their first-round series Tuesday in Orlando (US time).

Nikola Jokic swooped in for a hook shot with 27.8 seconds left to give the Nuggets the lead for good, after Denver squandered a 19-point lead and got dragged to a nip-and-tuck finish. 

Utah still had a chance to go for the win, but Donovan Mitchell — whose third-quarter scoring spree brought the Jazz back — committed a turnover with under 10 seconds left after driving into a double team.

The Nuggets, however, left the door open for the Jazz after Torrey Craig flubbed a point blank layup on the break. Rudy Gobert secured the board and released the ball to Mike Conley, who pulled up for a three-pointer just before the buzzer sounded.

Conley's attempt hit the rim and was seemingly on its way down before swirling out of the hoop, allowing Denver to escape. Mitchell, who twice reached the 50-point mark in the series, collapsed to the court before being helped up by Jamal Murray.

The two embraced in a gesture of great sportsmanship, after having dueled each other throughout the seven-game series. Neither player truly got going on offense in the grind-it-out decider — Murray was limited to 17 points on 7-of-21 shooting, while Mitchell had 22 points after making nine of his 22 field goals.

Instead, it was the centers of both teams who took the spotlight in Game 7. Gobert put up 19 points and 18 rebounds, and tied the game at 78 after completing an alley-oop from Conley with 47 seconds to go.

It was Jokic who got the last laugh, however, with his go-ahead hook shot capping a 30-point, 14-rebound performance. 

Denver was in control in the first half, leading by double-digits in the second period. But Utah came alive in the third frame, thanks to Mitchell who scored 14 points in the period. The Jazz trailed by just five points, 65-60, heading into the deciding quarter.

Utah took a three-point lead, 68-65, off four straight points by Gobert with eight minutes to go, but Jokic matched his effort to set the table for the wild finish.

Denver, which trailed 3-1 in the best-of-seven series, now advances to the second round of the Western Conference playoffs. They will play the Los Angeles Clippers.