Mike Conley Jr.'s name would have gone down in the history books, among players to have knocked down a series-clinching buzzer-beater. Instead, the ball just rimmed out and the Denver Nuggets advanced to the Conference Semifinals by winning an old school, low-scoring Game 7.
The THRILLING FINISH to Game 7!@nuggets win the series 4-3 and advance to play the Clippers in the West semis! #NBAPlayoffs pic.twitter.com/6AkuYn9EaV- NBA (@NBA) September 2, 2020
On the back of this win, Denver became the 12th team in NBA playoffs history to come back from a 3-1 series deficit and the first since the Cleveland Cavaliers (2016 NBA Finals).
With those final few missed shots, Nikola Jokic's hook shot over Rudy Gobert with 27.8 seconds to go was the game-winner.
Jokic floats in the jump-hook to put the @nuggets ahead for good in their Game 7 W! #PhantomCam #NBAPlayoffs- NBA (@NBA) September 2, 2020
DEN/LAC Game 1: Thurs. (9/3) - 9pm/et, TNT pic.twitter.com/QGzvsJqBZX
Playing 38 minutes, the Serbian finished with a game-high 30 points while also recording 14 rebounds and four assists on 12-of-23 shooting from the field. Jamal Murray, who was coming off of three consecutive games of scoring at least 40, struggled to knock down shots in this one. He finished with 17 points on 7-of-21 shooting from the field.
For the Jazz, Donovan Mitchell was the top scorer with 22 points while Rudy Gobert recorded a monster double-double of 19 points and 18 rebounds.
That said, this game wasn't always as close as the final scoreline shows. Here's a look at how the epic Game 7 progressed:
Nuggets start hot, hold big lead early
With 4:28 to go in the second quarter, it looked like the Nuggets had this game in the bag.
They led by 19 points (46-27) off the back of a 20-6 run to begin the second period. Michael Porter Jr., who scored nine of his 10 points for the game in the second quarter, scored or assisted on 10 points in this run.
AAAAAAANNNNNND-1 💪 pic.twitter.com/iC6nivvpfC- Denver Nuggets (@nuggets) September 2, 2020
For the quarter, the Nuggets had outscored the Jazz 24-15 and held a comfortable 14-point lead (50-36) when the halftime buzzer sounded.
Mitchell sparks Jazz rally in 3rd quarter
The Jazz, however, were in no mood to give in. Coming out of the locker rooms, they made this winner-take-all contest a game once again, by outscoring the Nuggets 24-15 in the third quarter.
Donovan Mitchell, the team's star in this series, led the way. He scored 13 points in the period and also had this incredible dish to Rudy Gobert for the slam:
🗣🗣🗣 pic.twitter.com/6TGhIw3K8w- utahjazz (@utahjazz) September 2, 2020
Off the back of a 19-8 run, the Jazz were able to reduce the deficit to its lowest of five (60-55).
4th quarter back-and-forth
Heading into the final frame, the Nuggets led 65-60, and all through those 12 minutes of the fourth quarter, both teams traded punches and defensive stops.
Nearly all of the games' eight ties and three lead changes came in the fourth quarter. In a defensive, grind-out game with everything on the line, the shots weren't falling.
👀 the best moments down the stretch of the FANTASTIC GAME 7 FINISH between the @utahjazz & @nuggets as Denver advanced to the West semis! #NBAPlayoffs- NBA (@NBA) September 2, 2020
DEN/LAC Game 1: Thurs. (9/3) - 9pm/et, TNT pic.twitter.com/E807RZRpm8
Neither team knocked down a three, both teams shot around 35.0% from the field and combined for just five free-throw attempts in the final quarter.
The Jazz had a couple of chances at it in the final seconds but couldn't knock down a decisive shot, which led to their second consecutive first-round elimination.
A series for the history books
It's not often that a first-round series will be remembered so fondly but this might just be one of them. Not only since the Nuggets achieved the rare 3-1 comeback but moreso because of the entertaining duel that the young superstars Donovan Mitchell and Jamal Murray provided us.
Donovan Mitchell and Jamal Murray combined to score 475 points in this series. That is the most combined points by opposing players in a series in NBA history. The previous record was by Jerry West and John Havlicek in the 1969 NBA Finals (463). pic.twitter.com/iu2Z8tUMS8- ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) September 2, 2020
Seconds after the final buzzer, the two shared a moment.
Nothing but respect 🤝- Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) September 2, 2020
Jamal Murray and Donovan Mitchell put on an unforgettable show. pic.twitter.com/VEj34jLCQu
Their duel alone helps this series stand alone in the history books. Mitchell's 33 3-pointers for the series is the most in NBA playoff history and Murray is a close second with 32.
Donovan Mitchell x Jamal Murray- NBA.com/Stats (@nbastats) August 31, 2020
This is the first time in NBA history that two players scored 50+ points in multiple games of a playoff series. pic.twitter.com/WPjuTFykm2
Both players averaged more than 30 points in this series, becoming the first pair of players to average more than 30 points and shoot better than 50.0% from the field in a playoff series since Kevin Durant and LeBron James in the 2017 NBA Finals.
While the Jazz exit the bubble, the Nuggets will have one day off before taking on the second-seeded LA Clippers in the Conference Semifinals on Friday.
This is only the third instance in franchise history (1978, 1986), since joining the NBA, that the Nuggets have made consecutive Conference Semifinals appearances.
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