Nuggets advance

April 28, 2019
Nikola Jokic & Lamarcus Aldridge
Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets is guarded by Lamarcus Aldridge of the San Antonio Spurs during Game 7 of the 2019 NBA Western Conference first round playoffs at the Pepsi Center on April 27 in Denver, Colorado.

LOS ANGELES, (AFP) - Nikola Jokic had a triple-double and Jamal Murray tallied 23 points as the Denver Nuggets punched their ticket to the second round of the NBA playoffs with a 90-86 game seven win over San Antonio.

Serbian Jokic finished with 21 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists while Murray, of Canada, floated in several clutch baskets with the game on the line as the host Nuggets won their first game seven in over four decades.

The last time the Nuggets were victories in a deciding game was May 1978 when they beat the Milwaukee Bucks in the playoff quarter-finals.

Murray said everybody played a role in helping them get the series victory on Saturday.

“We are hooping and winning games,” said Murray. “We haven’t gone this far in a while.

“We were able to close it out and it was an amazing effort from the team all around.”

The second-seeded Nuggets advance to play the fourth-seeded Portland Trail Blazers in the second round. Game one is Monday in Denver.

The Nuggets led wire-to-wire Saturday but had to sweat it out at the end as the Spurs fought back to make it close.

San Antonio were at times their own worst enemies. In the closing seconds of game seven, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich walked part way onto the court and yelled at his players to foul but they ignored him.

Popovich didn’t get the foul and the Nuggets were able to run the clock down and hold on for the series clincher.

“He didn’t hear anybody cause he didn’t foul,” said Popovich of LeMarcus Aldridge, who was the closest of the five players to the ball. “I think both teams sent basketball back in the first half. I was surprised people stayed.”

This is the first time a Popovich-coached team has lost consecutive seasons in the first round.

Rudy Gay had 21 points, DeMar DeRozan and Bryn Forbes scored 19 each and LaMarcus Aldridge had 16 points and 11 rebounds for seventh-seeded Spurs.

Forbes hit a three-pointer before DeRozan made one of two free throws with 70 seconds left to make it 88-84.

Forbes dunked after a Denver miss to make it a two-point game with 52 seconds left.

Murray, of Toronto, drained a floating 14-footer make it a four-point lead, and Torrey Craig blocked DeRozan’s drive to the basket with 28 seconds left.

In a second round East series opener, Kawhi Leonard scored a career playoff best with 45 points and grabbed 11 rebounds as the Toronto Raptors defeated the Philadelphia 76ers 108-95.

Pascal Siakam added 29 points and seven rebounds for the Raptors and Kyle Lowry added nine points and eight assists. JJ Redick had 17 points for the 76ers.

Joel Embiid chipped in with 16 points and eight rebounds, while Tobias Harris had 14 points and 15 rebounds. Ben Simmons also had 14 points with nine rebounds, James Ennis had 11 points and Jimmy Butler had 10.

The Raptors led by as many as 19 points and took an 11-point lead into the fourth quarter.

Leonard’s 14-footer had the Raptors leading by 18 with 7:06 remaining. The lead reached 20 on Leonard’s jumper with 4:17 to play.