- Nikola Jokic makes the game winning shot over Rudy Gobert
- Gary Harris clamps down on Donovan Mitchell to close the game
- Jamal Murray struggles after taking a knee to the quad
- Defenses were locked in, Offenses struggled
- The Nuggets will need more from their role players
- Perspective flips if Mike Conley hits the game winner
- On to the Los Angeles Clippers
Never in doubt.
Well, okay there was a lot of doubt, all the way down to the final buzzer. Denver Nuggets fans were on the edge of their seat as the Utah Jazz started to chip away at the lead in the second half. When Torrey Craig missed a layup in the closing seconds and Mike Conley juuuuust missed a game-winning three at the buzzer, Nuggets fans were probably assuming it was going in, because, well...NuggLife.
It didn’t though. The Nuggets won. They will move on to face the Los Angeles Clippers in the second round.
Here are my SEVEN takeaways from tonight:
Nikola Jokic, the best center in the NBA and most clutch player in the game
It wasn’t perfect for Joker tonight, but it was darn near close. He was feeling good in the first half as he and Jamal Murray were excelling on every set, but when Murray took a knee to the quad and clearly looked bothered for the rest of the game, it was time for Joker to take over.
And take over he did.
Technically this is a 720° game-winner in a game 7pic.twitter.com/71bkBMmJ9Y— Kirk Goldsberry (@kirkgoldsberry) September 2, 2020
Jokic piled up 30 points, 14 rebounds, four assists, and just two turnovers in a clutch Game 7 performance. His defense was strong, and his offense was stronger. He hit the game-winning shot above, a twirling post hook that touched nothing but the bottom of the net with 27.8 seconds left on the clock to give Denver a two-point lead. It was a thing of beauty, and poetic that it came against the two-time Defensive Player of the Year in Rudy Gobert.
Let’s face it: Jokic is an absolute baller. His role changed throughout the series as Murray turned into an absolute flamethrower. Jokic was more of a pick and pop big during those moments. When Game 7 happened and the Nuggets needed the best from their big man, he delivered with the biggest shot in the best way possible.
Big time players make big time plays. Jokic is big time.
Gary Harris clamps down on Donovan Mitchell to close the game
My, we missed you Gary Harris.
Offense be damned, it was a joy to watch Harris fly around on the defensive end and be a disruptive force against the Jazz guard initiated attack. His presence on the floor interrupted so many things the Jazz were trying to do, and if I were to boil down why the Jazz scored only 78 points, it was because of him.
On the second to last possession, Mitchell went to isolate against Harris and got a running start. Harris jumped his initial route, forced him to his left, and poked the ball away as Mitchell tried to spin by. We don’t need to talk about what happened after, but it was just an incredible play by Harris capping off an incredible defensive game.
Jamal Murray slows down after taking a knee to the quad
It wasn’t a dirty play by Joe Ingles that surely gave Jamal Murray a quad contusion, but it sure was unfortunate. Murray was in a groove up until that point right before the first half ended, and him being hobbled really changed Denver’s offensive effectiveness down the stretch.
Murray finished the game with 17 points on 7/21 from the field and 1/6 from three, a far cry from the baseline he established over the last three games. I genuinely believe he was having trouble creating separation with that left leg. This wasn’t a case of him not being able to execute, but rather him not being able to get as much lift on his jumper and drives to the rim as he normally does.
Hopefully, the quad injury gets back under control as the Nuggets transition into a new playoff series. The Nuggets will need Murray back in top form going forward.
Defenses were locked in while offenses struggled
These teams have seen so much of each other that it’s no wonder, under the pressure of a Game 7, that shots stopped falling for both teams at the incredible rate they had previously achieved.
The Nuggets shot 37.3% from the field and 25.8% from behind the arc.
The Jazz shot 38.0% from the field and 23.0% from behind the arc.
Both teams made 10 free throws but also left some points at the line.
Just a classic Game 7 rock fight.
The Nuggets need more offense from their role players
Part of the reason why this was a rock fight was the limited minutes of Michael Porter Jr., because after playing 34 minutes in Game 5 and 28 minutes in Game 6, Michael Malone chose to go with the veteran defensive option in Torrey Craig down the stretch (more on that decision next). Porter gave the Nuggets good minutes in the first half, scoring 10 points and finished with a +8 in 17 minutes, but there was a clear decision made at the start of the fourth quarter that the Nuggets were going to go with defensive lineups the rest of the game. No Monte Morris, no Paul Millsap, and no Porter.
Denver’s role players couldn’t hit a shot in the second half. They scored six of the 30 second half points, with Jokic and Murray combining for the other 24 (primarily Jokic). It was tough to watch, and it lends credence to the belief that the Nuggets may need a third offensive threat against the Clippers. It can’t just be all Jokic and Murray every possession.
If the Conley three goes in...
Late in the game, after Gary Harris gets a steal against Donovan Mitchell with 15 seconds left or so, the ball comes to Jamal Murray, who rightly pushes the ball up the floor to get quickly into the half court. Instead of pulling the ball out and forcing the Jazz to foul him in the closing seconds with Denver up two, he continues to push the fast break and passes to Torrey Craig for a layup. Craig blows the layup that would have sealed the game, and the Jazz rush the ball back down the floor with a chance to win the game and the series at the buzzer.
The Conley three goes in....and out...as Nuggets fans everywhere melted into a puddle.
If that Conley three goes in, it’s the most NuggLife moment in Nuggets franchise history. Full stop. A poor decision by Murray to lead a fast break in that situation rather than run clock and ice the game at the free throw line. A worse decision by Craig to attempt that layup, as easy as it should have been. All of the work the Nuggets put to come back in the series only to have it slip through their hands on THAT play?
That would’ve been tough to recover from.
On to the Clippers on Thursday
The turnaround is insanely quick as the Nuggets will try to recover from a Game 7 battle to face the championship contending Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday night.
We will have all of the coverage you need and more over the next couple of days. For now, I need to rest...whew...