• Nikola Jokic plays his best game of the series at the perfect time
  • Jamal Murray was quiet until the fourth quarter
  • The Nuggets defense turned to offense once again
  • Denver’s role players step up again
  • There will be Game 7

How can you not love this team?

They may frustrate you, give you extreme emotional stress, and play with fire, but they haven’t been burned yet. Despite being down 19 points in the early third quarter, the Denver Nuggets won Game 6 GOING AWAY over the Los Angeles Clippers 111-98 to force Game 7 on Tuesday night. Unbelievable.

Here are my five takeaways:

Nikola Jokic played his best game of the series at the perfect time

This may have been Nikola Jokic’s most clutch performance of his career, and that’s sort of an insane statement to make based on him scoring 30 points in Game 7 and hitting a game-winning shot.

Jokic was unbelievable today, the best player on the floor. He scored 34 points on 13-of-22 from the field and 4-of-6 from three-point range, even getting to the free throw line five times and making four of them. He added 14 rebounds and seven assists to that incredible line and showed he was the best player on the floor time and time again. The level of control he and Murray showed in the second half was incredible, orchestrating the comeback on both ends of the floor and making tough shots to make it happen. The Sombor Shuffle was alive and well in this one.

And another one.

Jokic is one of the best players in the world. Whether he’s the best player is a debate that doesn’t need to be had today, but the fact is: every time this team needs him in the playoffs, he rises to the occasion. He has been unbelievable the last two seasons and continues to prove why he’s the best big man in the NBA. That much is undoubtedly true.

Jamal Murray was unbelievable in the fourth quarter

It was a story we’ve seen from Murray so many times in his young career. Initially, he struggled to get free from the defense, wasn’t making a major impact, and was biding his time while Nuggets fans and national folks continued to ask the question “what’s up with Jamal?”

Then, he got smacked by Paul George under the basket early in the third quarter on a brutal no-call that got me to curse on Twitter again. It was absurd that it happened, and Murray went down in a heap of pain because of it. Fortunately for the Nuggets, Murray got up and turned into “injured Jamal Murray” which is truly a hybrid between prime Michael Jordan and Stephen Curry.

Murray finished the game with just 21 points, five assists, and five rebounds, but his fingerprints were all over the second half. He was efficient, effective, turned the ball over just once, and played with a swagger and control next to Jokic that completely demoralized the Clippers when their shots weren’t dropping.

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The Nuggets turn up the defensive pressure in the second half

The Nuggets held the Clippers to 35 points in the second half. That’s incredible. There really is no need for additional analysis beyond that. Denver’s defense coupled with incredible Jokic/Murray performances won them this game.

But it wasn’t just the point total. Denver made everything difficult for the Clippers in the second half. Everything was off the dribble for the Clippers, and because it consistently went through the superstars, other players weren’t really involved.

Gary Harris, Torrey Craig, and Michael Porter Jr. deserve a ton of credit for the second half defense. They were flying around on the perimeter, rotating onto the LA star players, and forcing other players to make shots that they didn’t hit today. The Nuggets completely disrupted the rhythm and flow of the Clippers, and they got rattled.

Denver’s role players step up again

In Game 5, it was Paul Millsap dropping 17 points in a timely moment to keep Denver’s hopes alive. In Game 6, it was Gary Harris dropping 16 points and sticking with his guns offensively despite a difficult start. Harris was 1-of-6 in the first half with three turnovers and looked to be stepping outside of his comfort zone offensively. In the second half, those misses turned into big makes with Harris finishing with 16 points, 4 assists, 4 rebounds, and 4 steals on 5-of-11 shooting and 2-of-4 from three-point territory.

The aforementioned Torrey Craig was also huge. With Jerami Grant struggling to hit shots offensively and in foul trouble, Craig entered the game with an enormous burden to nullify LA’s perimeter attack. He did enough on that end and even mad some important plays offensively. He had a wide open three that he calmly made in the fourth quarter that felt like a major momentum swing for Denver.

Michael Porter Jr. also joined the fray. Despite two UGLY turnovers in the first half, Michael Malone stuck with the rookie in crunch time again. The decision paid off, as Porter hit an important three-pointer in the closing minutes and continued to contribute to Denver’s hounding and scrambling perimeter defense in clutch moments. He finished with 13 points and 7 rebounds, making 3-of-6 on three-pointers and finishing a +12 in plus-minus, second on the team behind Murray’s +14 mark.

Finally, Monte Morris made some big shots, had four assists, and didn’t turn the ball over once in his 16 minutes. One of the shots he hit was a three-pointer in the first half, and another was an And-1 opportunity that fouled out Patrick Beverley early in the fourth quarter. Good, important minutes from Morris in this one.

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The Nuggets force Game 7…again…coming back from 3-1

The Nuggets have been here before. They are at their best when the back is against the wall. Nikola Jokic is playing like a wild animal out there, and Jamal Murray continues to come up big in clutch moments as a playmaker and defender.

The Clippers haven’t been here before. Kawhi Leonard has. Paul George has seen some shots go in over him in elimination games. The rest of this Clippers roster has limited experience in playoff moments where the game tightens up and things get really intense.

For all the Clippers talk about (and they do talk a lot about it) they haven’t been here before in this situation. The Nuggets have tied this series up heading into a Game 7 on Tuesday night having reclaimed all the momentum, and all the Clippers seem to believe is that they have this magic switch they can turn on when they need to in big moments.

Well, news flash: the Nuggets have that switch. It’s called “being down double digits in the third quarter.” They know who they are. They know how to play with their backs against the wall, and they’ve shown on five straight occasions in the last two playoff series that they aren’t to be trifled with or underestimated. You may think you have them in the bag, but you don’t, Clippers.

Let’s see if the Nuggets can pull off another miracle.