Kawhi, stacked Clippers collapse
Meet the NBA's comeback kings.
Jamal Murray scored 40 points, and Nikola Jokic tallied a monster triple-double, as the Denver Nuggets lived up to their never-say-die reputation to upset the Los Angeles Clippers 104-89 on Tuesday (US time) for a stunning 7-game series win in the Western Conference semifinals.
Jokic stuffed the stat sheet with 16 points, 22 rebounds, 13 assists, 2 steals and 3 blocks for Denver, which, like it did in the first round against Utah, came back from another 1-3 deficit to survive.
No team had accomplished that feat in back-to-back series before Denver.
This time, the prize is much bigger -- a date with LeBron James and the West top seed Los Angeles Lakers for a spot in the 2020 NBA Finals.
"Nobody wants us here," insisted Jokic.
"Next is Lakers, another tough opponent," he added. "But we are going to be out there having fun. It is simple for us, effort and energy."
Murray issued a warning for people who think the Lakers' juggernaut is going to steamroller them.
"They got to worry about us, too," he said.
The Clippers had been hyped as title contenders and a Western showdown with city rivals the Lakers had appeared a foregone conclusion.
But Kawhi Leonard and crew ran into a hungrier, more disciplined Denver team centered around superstar big man Jokic, as the Clippers' dreams of reaching a first conference finals remained just that.
Denver trailed by as many as 12 points in the first half and was behind 61-54 early in the third quarter, when the Nuggets launched a 28-13 run to go up 82-74 heading into the fourth.
The Clippers, who lost Game 5 and 6 even though they led substantively in the fourth, never recovered.
They went without a field goal for more than 7 minutes to start the fourth quarter, and when JaMychal Green made a dunk to stop the drought it was clear the Clippers didn't have any fight left in them.
In all, Los Angeles scored just 33 points in the second half.
Montrezl Harrell, the league's Sixth Man of the Year recipient, finished with 20 points to lead the Clippers, who saw superstars Leonard and Paul George struggle to shoot.
Leonard was just 6 of 22 from the floor for a playoffs-low 14 points, while George shot 4 of 16, including 2 of 11 from 3-point territory, for 10 points. -- With a report from Agence France-Presse