Denver Nuggets coach Mike Malone is 'running out of superlatives' to describe his resilient team after they beat the LA Clippers to force a Game 7.
Flights home from the NBA's bubble are planned whenever a team is on the cusp of elimination, just in case they are needed. Denver are in no hurry to board that plane.
The never-say-die Nuggets pulled off another season-saving comeback - and, after rallying from 19 points down with 22 minutes remaining, they will see the LA Clippers in Game 7 for a berth in the Western Conference Finals in the early hours of Wednesday morning (2am), live on Sky Sports.
Nikola Jokic had 34 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists, and the Nuggets topped the Clippers 111-98 on Sunday to even their West semi-final series at three games apiece. The Nuggets will try to become the first team in NBA history to rally from a pair of 3-1 deficits in the same postseason, after doing so against Utah in the West first round.
"I'm running out of adjectives, superlatives, whatever you want to call it to speak on our team," Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. "That is a tough, resilient group of you-know-whats. I love our team. I love our team. I love our toughness."
Jamal Murray scored 21 for Denver, who got 16 from Gary Harris, 13 from Michael Porter Jr and 10 from Monte Morris. The Nuggets outscored the Clippers 62-27 over a dizzying 20-minute stretch of the second half, turning everything around.
"I don't know how we did it, to be honest," Jokic said. "That's an amazing team. They are really talented, well-coached. They are really scary."
Paul George had 33 points, Kawhi Leonard scored 25 and Lou Williams had 14 for the Clippers, who are now 0-7 in games where they could clinch a trip to the Conference Finals.
The Clippers were outscored by 29 after half-time, their worst such deficit of the season.
"It's frustrating," Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. "Listen, when you decide to be a coach it's not going to be roses every day. We clearly have the right formula as far as how we are playing and then we keep losing it."
The Nuggets were down 16 at the half - the fourth time out of six games in the series when they trailed by at least that many in a game - and eventually fell behind by as many as 19 in the third quarter.
"I just think we are a really good team,'' Murray said. "It shouldn't get to this point."
Of course, the Nuggets flourish when they are in trouble.
They saved their season in Game 5 of the opening round by rallying from 15 points down in the third quarter against Utah to set the tone for a rally from a 3-1 series deficit. They saved themselves again in Game 5 of this series, getting down by 16 before coming back to save the season again.
On Sunday, it was more of the same.
George hit a three-pointer shortly after half-time for a 19-point lead and Leonard made a pair of free throws with 8:27 left in the third quarter to put the Clippers up 73-55. That's apparently when the Nuggets decided it was time to get going.
Over the next 10 minutes, the Nuggets outscored the Clippers 30-8. Denver had eight different players score in that stretch, Murray and Morris scoring seven apiece, and the big deficit became an 85-81 lead with 10:16 left.
"It's not that we don't respect them," George said. "We respect the opponent. They got this far for a reason. They have been together for a while so they are a connected group. They've been here. They have been a part of a lot of Game 7s."
Another one awaits.
"It's going to sound weird or funny or whatever, but we don't care," Jokic said. "We're just going to go there and have fun."
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The Nuggets are 5-0 this season when facing elimination.
With Denver's Game 6 win, the Western Conference Finals - Clippers or Nuggets vs the Los Angeles Lakers - are now certain to start on Friday night, with games every other day until someone wins the series.