Nikola Jokic joked that he and team-mate Jamal Murray are “like a couple” after the dynamic Denver duo led the Nuggets to a shock Game 7 win over the heavily-favoured LA Clippers.
Murray and Nikola Jokic led another stunning turnaround as the Nuggets advanced to the Western Conference Finals for the first time since 2009. Murray scored 40 points, Jokic had a triple-double by the third quarter and Denver again overcame a double-digit deficit to upset the Clippers 104-89 on Tuesday night.
Asked about his chemistry with Murray after the Nuggets’ victory Jokic said: “It’s not just this season, it is a lot of years. We are just improving. We have talks, we have fights, we are like a couple.”
“Like ‘Joker’ said yesterday, we played with no pressure,” Murray added. “We go out there and hoop, we go out there and believe in each other. We made some shots tonight to get us the ‘dub’. It was a collective effort. It’s not just a one-two punch. We have a whole squad that can really hoop and get the job done.”
The Nuggets became the first team in NBA history to rally from a 3-1 series deficit twice in the same postseason. Even more history? Denver are the third team in the US major pro sports to rally from a pair of 3-1 deficits in the same playoffs, joining the 1985 Kansas City Royals and 2003 Minnesota Wild.
The seven-foot Jokic had a monster game with 16 points, 13 assists and 22 rebounds, the most by a Nuggets player in an NBA playoff game. He broke his record of 19 that he set last season and shared with Marcus Camby.
In a familiar trend, the Nuggets found themselves down by 12 in the first half. They also trailed 61-54 with 10:50 left in the third when they caught fire. The Nuggets went on a 35-13 run to build up a 15-point lead in the fourth quarter.
They led by as many as 20. Murray helped the Nuggets pour it on down the stretch to give coach Michael Malone a 49th birthday present. The team also rallied back from double-digit margins in their last two games as well to stun the Clippers.
“I had a talk (I was going to give) before the game, but I didn’t,” Jokic said. “(I was going to tell them) whatever we do, I am going to remember this team because this is a special crew. Nobody wants us here. Nobody thinks we can do something. But we proved to everybody we can do something.”
Murray added: “We took a hit, down 3-1. But we are resilient, we fought back and we put them under pressure.”
With the Los Angeles Lakers awaiting them in the Western Conference Finals, Jokic insisted the third-seeded Nuggets start their next challenge feeling no pressure themselves.
“Next is the Lakers, another tough opponent for us. We are going to be out there having fun,” he said.
“If you are going to go out there thinking about them, it is going to be a long night for us. We have to go out there with effort and have fun. It’s simple for us.”