Nuggets persevere in 3-1 comeback against the Jazz

Bailey Bassett

The Denver Nuggets and Utah Jazz just finished what will be viewed as an all-time legendary series in the first round of the National Basketball Association playoffs. The Nuggets were down 3-1 in the best-of-seven series but pulled off the impossible, becoming the 12th team ever to win three in a row and win the series when down 3-1.

On Tuesday, the Nuggets beat the Jazz in a nail-biter 80-78. This game probably cut a few years off of most Nuggets fans’ lives as it came down to the very last seconds.

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Most of the series had been a shootout with record-breaking statistics and scoring. Prior to the matchup, only two players ever had scored 50 points twice in a playoff series. Those names were legends Michael Jordan and Allen Iverson. Both Jamal Murray and Utah’s Donovan Mitchell were added to that list.

Murray and Donovan also became the highest-scoring opponent duo in a single series ever with 475 combined points. In addition, Murray became the only player besides Jordan to score 40-plus points with five-plus rebounds and assists in three straight playoff games. Needless to say, it was an offensive explosion of a series.

That all changed in game seven. The final score looked more like a matchup out of the 1990s than what we were getting used to and had come to expect on the offensive end. Murray wasn’t the unstoppable monster he had been, and the Jazz weren’t making every 3-pointer like they seemingly had during the first six games.

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The game ended up coming down to the final possessions. Nikola Jokic pivoted three times until he was able to float up a short-range, hook-like touch shot. That shot came at the 28-second mark, meaning the Jazz still had a chance, but the Nuggets were going to end up with the last shot in all likelihood. The Jazz turned the ball over, and it went straight into the arms of scoring machine Murray.

Murray raced down the court as time ticked down, and instead of dribbling the clock out, he passed to the cutting Torrey Craig, a defensive weapon not known for his bucket-getting ability. Craig, same as Murray, should have dribbled the ball out to try to take as much time as possible off the clock before Utah would be forced to foul. However, Craig committed a basketball sin and went up with the ball for a layup. Worst of all, he blew it.

This gave the Jazz one last shot, and Mike Conley Jr. got a clean look from three as time expired that would have given the Jazz the lead and the series. Luckily for Nuggets fans, the ball barely rimmed out, and the Nuggets walked away with the two-point victory.

Murray was the star of the series who emerged as a hero to the national audience, but it was Jokic, who played in Murray’s shadow most of the series, who led the team to victory. He had 21 of Denver’s 30 points in the second half, including the game-winner. Jokic still had a phenomenal series overall, but he reminded the league that the Nuggets are his team.

The team faces the Los Angeles Clippers tonight. The Clippers are the two-seed and the Nuggets are the three-seed, so it should be a tightly contested series. The emergence of Murray and the dominance of Jokic must carry over for the team to avoid losing in the second round for the second straight season.

Bailey Bassett can be reached on sports@collegian.com Twitter @baileybassett_.

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