DENVER — The Denver Nuggets, the second seed within the Western Convention, had been down by 16 factors to the San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday night time and about 18 minutes away from falling right into a disastrous Zero-2 gap within the sequence.
Denver coach Mike Malone referred to as for timeout with 5:45 remaining within the third quarter together with his group trailing 73-57 and conjured up the LA Clippers pulling off their massive comeback win in opposition to the Golden State Warriors to encourage his group.
“I might see on some guys’ faces which means is that this recreation going to go?” Malone mentioned. “… I reminded them what the Clippers did [Monday] night time and the way a lot basketball is left. It is solely going to occur although if we imagine, we commit, we combat and we assault, and the fellows took it to coronary heart — and we closed the sport out on a 57-32 run from that time on.”
The Nuggets trailed by as a lot as 19 within the third, however with Jamal Murray erupting for 21 of his 24 factors in an explosive fourth quarter, the Nuggets accomplished a doubtlessly season-saving comeback. They notched their first playoff win of the postseason to even the best-of-seven sequence at 1-1 with a 114-105 victory over the Spurs.
Although the Nuggets did not overcome a 31-point deficit just like the Clippers did an evening earlier in a 135-131 victory to shock the defending champs, their 19-point rally beginning on the four:28 mark within the third quarter was tied for the third-largest blown lead by the Spurs underneath coach Gregg Popovich within the playoffs.
“We gave up  factors within the fourth quarter, finish of story,” Popovich mentioned after the loss. “… Paul [Millsap] and Jamal had lots to do with that, clearly. They each damage us badly, and we did not have any solutions for both of them.”
With a lot of the Nuggets group experiencing the postseason for the primary time, Denver got here out and fell behind by 19 within the second quarter. Millsap, one of many few Nuggets with playoff expertise, scored 15 factors within the first half and saved Denver from falling behind by rather more.
Murray and Will Barton could not get a shot to fall within the first three quarters, combining to go 1-for-18 throughout that span.
After capturing Eight-for-23 and lacking all six of his Three-point makes an attempt in Recreation 1, Murray remained an hour after that contest to get pictures up on the group’s observe courtroom late into night time on Saturday following Denver’s 101-96 loss. Within the last 57.7 seconds of Recreation 1, Murray missed a Three-pointer, misfired on an open 18-footer that might have put the Nuggets forward and turned the ball over.
“Simply psychological bounce again,” Murray mentioned of what the 2 days between video games had been like for him emotionally. “Clearly wasn’t proud of myself, annoyed. The best way I performed … I rushed all the pieces. I used to be excited. I let the group, the superb power, get to me.
“I needed to enter Recreation 2 relaxed.”
Murray tried to set off the Pepsi Middle initially of Recreation 2 however missed what would have been a thunderous dunk early. At halftime, Malone advised Murray to relax and to breathe.
“He was so annoyed at halftime, not making pictures, pictures that he is made his entire profession,” Malone mentioned. “I simply grabbed him and advised him take a deep breath. Each shot proper now’s like the top of the world.”
In the meantime, Murray’s level guard counterpart, Derrick White, was following up his breakout Recreation 1 efficiency by making 7 of 10 pictures on Tuesday and scoring all 17 of his factors for the Spurs within the first three quarters.
Gary Harris scored 14 of his 23 factors within the third to maintain the Nuggets inside putting distance getting into the fourth. Murray, who had missed all eight of his pictures and had solely three factors after three quarters, walked onto the ground initially of the fourth and seemed on the sold-out crowd of 19,520.
Murray mentioned seeing all of the followers waving their playoff towels reminded him of his childhood dream of taking part in in entrance of a sold-out playoff crowd.
Then Murray caught fireplace. He hit eight straight pictures coming in all types of selection — pullups, fadeaways, Three-pointers. Then in a 19-second span, Murray delivered a one-two punch that knocked the Spurs out. He hit a fadeaway Three-pointer. And after Spurs ahead Rudy Homosexual misplaced the ball, Murray got here down and drilled a pull-up Three in entrance of Popovich and the Spurs’ bench to present the Nuggets a 110-101 lead with 2:12 remaining because the Pepsi Middle erupted.
Murray pumped his fist and pulled out his trademark “Blue Arrow” celebration by the scorer’s desk because the playoff towels had been waving in all places.
“Fairly good,” Murray mentioned about that second. “Simply the way in which I imagined it. Once I get into the zone, all people is aware of I get in a zone. … I am going loopy. I’ve lots of enjoyable. I like the sport with a ardour. I used to be sizzling, and I made a decision to drag up.”
The sequence is tied 1-1, and now the younger Nuggets go to San Antonio seeking to steal home-court benefit again.
“He wants this,” Malone mentioned when requested if there was any consideration to benching Murray within the fourth as a result of he was chilly. “… I did not foresee the fourth quarter he was going to have, however I knew in my coronary heart he wanted to get these minutes, he wanted to be on the market, I wanted to point out him that I believed in him.”
“First of many for Jamal Murray,” Malone added of the purpose guard’s playoff efficiency. “I’ve little question.”