The Denver Nuggets have been dealt a blow after star guard Jamal Murray suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) of the left knee.

Murray will be sidelined indefinitely after the high-flying Nuggets revealed the injury diagnosis on Tuesday.

Denver were left sweating over Murray's fitness following Monday's 116-107 NBA loss to the Golden State Warriors.

Murray fell to the floor in agony following an apparent non-contact injury – the 24-year-old clutching his left knee amid serious concerns on court.

Denver's Murray has been averaging a career-high 21.2 points, 4.0 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game this season.

Murray has also been boasting career highs in field-goal percentage (47.7) and three-point percentage (40.8).

The Nuggets (34-20) – led by MVP candidate Nikola Jokic – are fourth in the Western Conference.

The team from the Mile High City is rising again.

The Denver Nuggets are starting to resemble the team that put forth a thrilling and historic run to last season's Western Conference finals, the first in NBA history to win two series in a postseason when faced with a 3-1 deficit. They are 12-3 since February 27, tied with the Phoenix Suns for the league's best record over that period, and are the only team with three players (Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, Michael Porter Jr.) averaging better than 20 points per game during that time frame.

So, what has changed? How have the Nuggets elevated themselves back to a legitimate contender after spending the season's first two months mostly languishing in mediocrity?

It is no secret that offense is Denver's calling card, consistently ranking among the league's most efficient teams on that end even when hovering around .500 for nearly all of January and February. Defense is the true key to the Nuggets' success, however, and will ultimately be the determining factor to whether Mike Malone's crew wind up as serious title contenders or early playoff flameouts. 

Simply put, the Nuggets are awfully hard to stop when they are able to stop opponents at a passable level. Denver is 24-1 this season when holding foes to a field goal percentage of 47.5 per cent or below, with only the NBA-leading Jazz (32-1) owning a superior winning percentage when keeping teams under that number. The Nuggets are 19-1 when limiting opponents to 106 points or fewer, just slightly behind Utah's 20-1 mark for the best in the league when doing so. 

HIGHEST WIN PERCENTAGE WHEN OPPONENT FG PCT. UNDER .475:

Jazz 32-1 .970  
Nuggets 24-1 .960 
Bucks 25-4 .862 
76ers 26-7 .788
Nets 22-6 .786
Suns 22-6 .786 

The Nuggets were able to squeak by the Clippers in large part due to Jerami Grant's incessant hounding of Kawhi Leonard, who shot a combined 37 per cent in LA's four losses and finished with a 6-for-22 dud in the deciding Game 7. But Grant's free-agent departure to Detroit and the since-traded Gary Harris' inability to stay healthy has frequently left Denver without its top two defenders from last season, and a void Malone has often had difficulty trying to fill.

Need more proof? Well, just harken back to last year's playoff bubble. The Nuggets put on a defensive clinic at times in their conference semi-final series with the Clippers, holding them to 42 per cent shooting or below in all four victories. The Jazz shot a combined 51.6 per cent from the field while taking a 3-1 lead on Denver in that opening-round classic. In the final three games, they shot 44.4 per cent as the Nuggets stormed back to take the series.

Denver had no answer for the Lakers' interior game and abundance of size in the West finals, in which the eventual champions shot nearly 59 per cent from inside the 3-point line to win in five games. 

Until now. 

Aaron Gordon was not the biggest name to change uniforms at the trade deadline, but the former Orlando Magic forward could very well wind up being the most impactful of all the moves. What the Nuggets needed most of all was another Grant, someone with the size and athleticism to capably guard multiple positions, effectively get to the rim and offer at least a mild threat of perimeter scoring.

Gordon is not as good from the outside as Grant, but he is shooting a career-best 37.1 per cent from 3-point range and at just 25, there is still room to expand his game further. He is a superior rebounder and finisher, however, having shot a strong 65.1 percent at the rim for his career. And now playing alongside the premier passing big man of this generation in Jokic, there's reason to suggest that number can go up as well.

The Nuggets did not acquire Gordon for his offense, however. The Magic allowed 2.3 fewer points per 100 possessions this season with him on the court as opposed to him off it, and with a first-round matchup with either the Lakers or Clippers a real possibility, it was crucial that Denver added a player with the requisite size and skill to go head-to-head with Leonard or LeBron James.

It is an incredibly small sample size, but the returns have so far been smashingly successful. The Nuggets have opened the Gordon era with blowout wins over the Hawks and the admittedly depleted 76ers, and they are a plus-36 with their new acquisition on the floor over those two games.

With the defense seemingly upgraded and Porter's emergence as a legitimate third scoring option alongside the incomparable Jokic and the dynamic Murray, the Nuggets appear better equipped for an NBA Finals run after coming three wins short of getting there last season. 

Now, Gordon isn't the solution for all of Denver's issues. For all the great things Jokic does, rim protection will never be one of them. The Nuggets have allowed opponents to shoot 62.6 per cent at the rim, with only New Orleans having yielded a higher rate, and they were routinely manhandled inside by the Lakers' big lineups in the West finals. 

That looms as a potential problem again down the road, assuming the Lakers will have a healthy Anthony Davis for the playoffs, but one the Nuggets may have alleviated somewhat with the possibly under-the-radar deadline pickup of JaVale McGee. The veteran center provides the size and presence as an interior deterrent that Denver sorely lacked, though that benefit could come with a cost if it leads to Jokic playing less, or if he's alternatively moved to power forward, where his defensive limitations could be further exploited.

There are certainly worse problems to have, however, and there is little question the Nuggets got better at the deadline while many of their other chief competitors largely stood pat.

Buckle up, folks. The West's road to the NBA Finals just got a little more rocky.  

The races for the top seeds in each conference in the NBA are getting more interesting.

It was a fascinating seven days of action in the NBA, which saw the Brooklyn Nets surge even with Kevin Durant on the sidelines.

They are on a six-game win streak and trail the Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia 76ers by only half a game.

However, the Sixers can be encouraged by the form of their top two stars, who each enjoyed extremely productive weeks.

The Los Angeles Lakers are on a two-game losing streak and are two and a half games back of the Utah Jazz in the race for the top seed in the Western Conference.

They will be out to get back to their best this week, and an improvement in three-point shooting from the MVP frontrunner would be beneficial to them doing that.

Here we take a look at some of the best and worst performers across the past week, aided by Stats Perform data.

RUNNING HOT...

Ben Simmons

Simmons missed two games last week due to stomach flu but he was excellent in the pair of games in which he did feature for the Sixers.

He dropped 42 points in the loss to the Utah Jazz and, after a brief spell on the sidelines, was back with 28 in the defeat to the Toronto Raptors.

His points per game average for the week ballooned to 35, Simmons having entered the week putting up 14.13. Philadelphia will need more of the same the rest of the way if the Sixers are to clinch top spot in the East.

Jamal Murray

The Nuggets are in the thick of a crowded playoff race in the Western Conference, and their hopes of reaching the postseason will be boosted if Murray can maintain his form of the past week.

Having come into the week scoring 18.54 points per game, he averaged 35 last week, with that number inflated by a stunning 50-point game against the Cleveland Cavaliers, which saw him shoot 84 per cent from the field and go eight of 10 from three-point range.

He went from putting up just over two triples per game to averaging five and, with a game against a Portland Trail Blazers team two and a half games ahead of them in the standings next up, Murray's success from deep will be pivotal.

Joel Embiid

Arguably the closest challenger to LeBron James for the league MVP award this season, Embiid was a monster on the boards for the Sixers this week.

His 50-point game in the win over the Chicago Bulls on Friday was also the first of two successive outings with 17 rebounds. 

Embiid's rebounds per game average jumped from 10.77 entering the week to 15 over the past seven days.

He will need to continue making that kind of all-round impact in scoring and rebounding if Embiid is to have any hope of denying LeBron the MVP.

GOING COLD...

Derrick Rose

Rose's second week as a New York Knick did not go to plan.

The 2011 MVP had come into the week registering 14.28 points per game, but that dropped to just 5.33 over the course of the last three games.

He endured a dismal week from the field, hitting just five of his 27 shots. Having gotten him out of a bad situation in Detroit, the Knicks will want a lot more from Rose in the coming weeks as they look to cement their grasp on a playoff spot.

Nikola Jokic

While Murray has been outstanding for the Nuggets, their MVP candidate had a down week in one key area of his game.

Denver lost three of their four games last week, and the Nuggets will look for improved play on the boards from Jokic as they target a reversal in fortunes. 

Jokic had been recording 11.5 rebounds per game but that dipped to 8.75 over his past four outings, failing to put up double-digit rebounds in back-to-back games against the Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards.

He was back in double figures in each of Denver's last two games, and Jokic will aim to carry that momentum into this week and a key matchup with Portland.

LeBron James

This season has seen LeBron hit threes at his highest rate since joining the Los Angeles Lakers.

He has converted on 36.2 per cent of his attempts from beyond the arc but he suffered a decline from deep last week.

Having entered the week hitting 2.57 threes a game, he averaged just one over the course of the Lakers' last three matchups.

James has not made more than one three in a game since the second meeting in a back-to-back with the Oklahoma City Thunder on February 10.

With LeBron, though, drop-offs are only ever temporary. The MVP frontrunner should resume normal service from three-point range sooner rather than later.

Denver Nuggets head coach Michael Malone described the efficiency of Jamal Murray's 50-point haul as "remarkable".

Murray went 21-of-25 from the field and eight-of-10 from three-point range to post 50 points in the Nuggets' 120-103 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday.

Malone lauded the guard's performance after the Nuggets improved their record to 16-13.

"I've been around a lot of great players, I've been in the league for a long time, I've seen many 50-point games," he said.

"To do it as efficiently as he did is really remarkable."

Nikola Jokic finished with a triple-double of 16 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists for the Nuggets.

Murray said the Nuggets' numerous threats made his life easier against the Cavaliers.

"I can shoot a little bit. Once I see a few go down, I just took off from there and kind of mixed it up," he told Altitude TV.

"I was able to get to the rim on them when they tried to change the coverage and we've got a lot of weapons. You can't just flat-out double me when I'm hot, you've got a 'Joker' [Jokic], who's MVP of the season, he'll pick you apart if you're playing four on three especially.

"I feel like it was just a tough task to be able to deal with both of us and the rest of the team as well."

Jamal Murray's playoff performances caught Joel Anthony by surprise, but the two-time NBA champion still thinks "the ceiling is still extremely high" for the Denver Nuggets star.

The Nuggets showed great resilience to make it to the Western Conference Finals, where they were beaten 4-1 by eventual NBA champions the Los Angeles Lakers.

Murray played a pivotal role for Denver, averaging 26.5 points, 6.6 assists and 4.8 rebounds in the playoffs as Michael Malone's team became the first in history to win two series in the same postseason after trailing 3-1.

The fourth-year guard twice dropped 50 points on the Utah Jazz in the first round and scored 40 points in a Game 7 win against the Los Angeles Clippers in the semifinals.

Anthony, who claimed his two rings alongside LeBron James with the Miami Heat in 2012 and 2013, was thoroughly impressed by fellow Canadian Murray's playoff displays so early in his career.

"We all had a pretty good idea that kid was going to be pretty good. I'm not even sure if this type of performance, we would have thought to see this early. But I'm absolutely loving what he has been able to do," Anthony told Stats Perform News.

"I feel the ceiling is still extremely high. I love the fact that he has been able to have these moments and do it in the biggest stage, which is the playoffs. That is when you are really tested in the league, and I feel he is proving himself a lot.

"I got to meet him a couple of times and as a person, he is a great kid, great individual, great human being. Definitely a pure spirit about the game. Just how he deals with people, he's definitely a special player.

"Denver is fortunate to have a talent that like, but also a great person like that as well."

Anthony believes Murray's impressive development is part of a wider trend that has seen Canadian basketball move onto an upward trajectory.

"Canadian basketball as a whole, I love it, I absolutely love it. The talent that is coming out of this country is really impressive to me," said Anthony.

"Obviously by the numbers you can see just the fact that we have the second-most NBA players of any country, obviously behind the US. That is a huge jump from when I first came in the league, we had two others ... three actually.

"This is something that has actually been a process, and I have actually been able to see this whole process develop, as more and more kids were coming out. I just feel that Canadian basketball is just starting to hit a certain point in the curve, where they are really able to catch up.

"I have been fortunate. I came in undrafted and really had to fight my way to get it. No one really knew about me, I was definitely an unknown. But you have guys coming in that are number one pick in the draft, top-five picks, lottery…

"There is just a lot of talent and I am really happy for the direction that our country is going and it is going to be great to watch."

Anthony hoped to play a part in helping the next generation after joining Canadian Elite Basketball League side the Hamilton Honey Badgers as a player consultant for the 2020 season.

"Coming in my biggest thing was really to just be able to be able to give back to the younger guys. So to be able to help them in any way as they develop as players, trying to help them through these different experiences that they will be going through," said Anthony.

"We have some older players that are a little bit more established, but we also have plenty of younger guys that were just starting to become pros and going through that process, so I really want to be able to help them, give them the type of advice that I would have wanted and that I actually got from different veterans that I had throughout my career.

"I really enjoy that type of role and I was also able to do things on the court with them as well. When you are removed, I was able to actually be on there with them. So physically they are able to see different things, and to have me around was a benefit."

The Los Angeles Lakers advanced to their first NBA Finals in a decade after LeBron James' triple-double secured a series victory over the Denver Nuggets.

Not since winning their last championship in 2010 had storied franchise the Lakers reached the NBA showpiece.

But James helped end that drought as the top-seeded Lakers topped the Nuggets 117-107 on Saturday to seal a 4-1 series victory in the Western Conference finals.

James posted 38 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists to lead the Lakers at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida, where he will contest his 10th NBA Finals – the fourth player in history to do so.

It was James' 27th career playoff triple-double as the 35-year-old eyes a fourth championship ring, with the Miami Heat or Boston Celtics awaiting in the Finals.

All-Star team-mate Anthony Davis contributed 27 points for the Lakers, who will make their 32nd Finals appearance.

The third-seeded Nuggets became the first team in NBA history to overcome a 3-1 deficit to win a series twice in the same postseason en route to the Conference finals.

But they were unable to produce another comeback, despite 20 points apiece from Nikola Jokic and Jerami Grant.

Nuggets star Jamal Murray was limited to just 19 points as the Nuggets bowed out of the Orlando bubble.

 

Celtics face Heat

Can the Celtics level the series or will the Heat book their spot in the Finals? The two teams will meet in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals on Sunday, with the Heat leading 3-2.

LeBron James took on the responsibility of guarding Jamal Murray down the stretch because he knew it was "winning time" for the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 4. 

With the Lakers holding a four-point lead with just over five minutes remaining in the final quarter, and Murray on 28 points on 12-for-17 shooting, James switched onto the Denver Nuggets guard. 

Murray was held to 0-for-2 shooting by the four-time NBA MVP, with his four points in the last five minutes coming from the free throw line. 

The Lakers consequently closed out a 114-108 victory to move 3-1 up in the Western Conference Finals. 

Asked why he put himself on Murray, James said: "I knew it was winning time, and Jamal had it going. The kid is special. He has an array of shots. Triple threat from the three, mid-range and also in the paint. 

"For me, it's just trusting my defensive keys. Trusting my study of film. Trusting personnel. And living with the results. I told my team-mates that I had him and everyone else can kind of stay at bay and stay home. 

"I was able to get a couple stops and we were able to rebound the basketball, which is the most important thing." 

James is averaging 34.4 minutes in the playoffs, which is the fewest of his career – his previous low was 38.2 with the Miami Heat in 2013-14. 

The 17-year veteran denied that having less time on court helped him stay fresh to guard Murray in the closing stages. 

"I don't reserve any energy. I'm on the floor, I give it all I've got. If I need a break, I ask for a break. Coach has done a good job of getting me out throughout the course of the game," said James. 

"I don't look at it as a reserve tank. I've got pretty good energy when I'm on the floor all the time. It's winning time and I don't have a chance or time to be feeling tired. 

"I'm tired now. That's when I'm tired, when it's zeros on the clock. That's when I'm tired. I'm not tired during the game."

Murray appreciated the respect the Lakers afforded him but felt the Nuggets, who have come back from 3-1 deficits to advance in the past two rounds, still should have found a way to win. 

He said: "I mean, they switched AD [Anthony Davis] on me to be on him, too. 

"Obviously, with LeBron I do the same stuff I do when I see [Alex] Caruso, when I see [Rajon] Rondo and KCP [Kentavious Caldwell-Pope], and Kawhi [Leonard], Paul George and Pat Bev [Patrick Beverley]. 

"I mean, I do the same thing. Appreciate the respect, but we've got to win the game."

The Los Angeles Lakers are on the cusp of the NBA Finals after holding off Jamal Murray and the Denver Nuggets 114-108 in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals.

LeBron James and fellow All-Star Anthony Davis led the top-seeded Lakers, who moved 3-1 ahead in the NBA playoffs at Walt Disney World Resort on Thursday.

James put up 26 points, nine rebounds and eight assists in a performance just shy of a triple-double, while Davis had a game-high 34 points.

There was a worrying moment in the fourth quarter when Davis rolled around in pain after landing on his ankle, but he continued.

Murray dazzled once again in Orlando, Florida, where the Nuggets star posted 32 points and eight rebounds – including a memorable Michael Jordan-esque drive to the basket.

But the Nuggets – who became the first team in NBA history to overcome a 3-1 deficit to win a series twice in the same postseason en route to the Conference finals – find themselves in a familiar position, down 3-1.

The Lakers' dominance off the boards proved decisive as the Nuggets failed to make a field goal during the last three minutes, 28 seconds – missing their final five attempts.

Now, the Lakers are one win away from their first trip to the NBA Finals since winning their last championship in 2010.

Lakers veteran Dwight Howard finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds, while Nuggets star Nikola Jokic was limited to just 16 points.

 

Heat face Celtics

The Miami Heat can book their spot in the NBA Finals with victory over the Boston Celtics in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals on Friday.

Denver Nuggets point guard Jamal Murray believes his team should be 2-1 up in their best-of-seven series with Los Angeles Lakers after a devastating Game 2 defeat.

Murray starred with 28 points, 12 assists and two late three-pointers to earn the Nuggets a 114-106 victory in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals in Florida.

That hard-fought victory came on the back of a buzzer-beating loss in Game 2, which saw Anthony Davis hit a last-gasp three-pointer to win it for the Lakers.

But having also showed real character to outlast the Los Angeles Clippers in the Western Conference semi-finals, Murray is determined to peg back the Lakers at 2-2 on Thursday.

"We had Game 2. I thought we played great in Game 2, we just had a couple of moments that really hurt us," he told reporters. "So we feel like we should be up 2-1 right now." 

"We have to move on to Game 4 now. In the Clippers series we dropped Game 3, so we have to take care of stuff that we can control. We've got to do that if we want to win."  

The Lakers entered the game on a six-game winning run and closed to within three points of Denver in the final quarter, only for their opponents to pull away.

"We're in this series," Nuggets coach Michael Malone said after the vital win.

"We let them know we're not going anywhere. That's what you guys have done this whole post-season.

"That's why everybody is rooting for us. Keep on showing that grit and resilience and playing for each other."

James led the Lakers with a 26th career triple-double, which included 30 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds, but the Lakers star conceded the better team won on the day.

"We turned the ball over too much and we put them on the free-throw line," he said.

"I give credit where credit is due. They played better than us. They were more aggressive than us for three quarters."

The Denver Nuggets outlasted an epic Los Angeles Lakers rally to claim Game 3 114-106 in the Western Conference finals.

After a heartbreaking buzzer-beating loss in Game 2, the Nuggets produced a trademark performance of resilience behind Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic double-doubles to reduce the Lakers' series lead to 2-1 in the NBA playoffs.

The Nuggets looked on track to cruise to victory in the third showdown, having taken a 93-75 lead through three quarters at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida.

But LeBron James – who tallied a triple-double – and the top-seeded Lakers reeled off a stunning 19-2 run and forced six successive turnovers to close within 101-98 with less than four minutes remaining on Tuesday.

Veteran guard Rajon Rondo was instrumental in the Lakers' fightback courtesy of three steals against the stuttering Nuggets.

But the Nuggets – who became the first team in NBA history to overcome a 3-1 deficit to win a series twice in the same postseason en route to the Conference finals – fended off the Lakers with a run of their own as Murray finished with 28 points, 12 assists and eight rebounds.

All-Star big man Jokic posted 22 points, 10 rebounds and five assists, and Jerami Grant had a playoff career-high 26 points to help the Nuggets avoid a 3-0 hole.

James led the Lakers with his 26th career triple-double, which included 30 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds, while Anthony Davis – the last-gasp hero in Game 2 – had 27 points.

 

Celtics face Heat

The Boston Celtics will look to level their series against the Miami Heat when they two teams meet in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals on Wednesday.

Anthony Davis nailed a buzzer-beating three-pointer as the Los Angeles Lakers stunned the Denver Nuggets 105-103 in Game 2 of the Western Conference finals.

Trailing 103-102, Davis hit a last-gasp three to break Denver's hearts and give the Lakers a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven NBA playoff series in Orlando, Florida on Sunday.

The third-seeded Nuggets, who became the first team in NBA history to overcome a 3-1 deficit to win a series twice in the same postseason en route to the Conference finals, were seconds away from levelling the matchup at Walt Disney World Resort.

Nuggets All-Star Nikola Jokic made a 10-foot shot with 20.8 seconds remaining as Denver moved ahead by a point against top seeds the Lakers.

Jamal Murray also produced some elite defending for the Nuggets, blocking Danny Green's jumper as the clock dropped to 2.2 seconds.

But with no timeouts and time expiring, Davis stepped up in a clutch moment, receiving an inbound pass from Rajon Rondo and putting the Lakers in control of their first Conference finals since going on to win their last championship in 2010.

Davis finished with 31 points and nine rebounds, while team-mate LeBron James posted 26 points and 11 rebounds.

Jokic had 30 points and nine assists and Murray put up 25 points for the shocked Nuggets, who had fought back from as many as 16 points down.

 

Lakers face Nuggets

The Lakers and Nuggets are back at it again in Game 3 on Tuesday.

The Los Angeles Lakers drew first blood against the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference finals, winning 126-114 on Friday.

Led by double-doubles from Anthony Davis and LeBron James, the top-seeded Lakers claimed Game 1 of the NBA playoff series at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida.

Davis posted 37 points and 10 rebounds in 33 minutes for the Lakers, while All-Star team-mate James had 15 points and 12 assists of his own.

The third-seeded Nuggets became the first team in NBA history to overcome a 3-1 deficit to win a series twice in the same postseason, having rallied past the Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Clippers.

And they made a promising start, outscoring the Lakers 38-36 in the opening period but that is as good as it got for Jamal Murray's Nuggets.

The Lakers – back in the Conference finals for the first time since going on to win their last championship in 2010 – outscored the Nuggets 67-41 in the next two periods to move clear and take control of the contest behind closed doors amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Murray and Nikola Jokic, integral to Denver's first trip to the Conference finals since losing to the Lakers in 2009, both scored 21 points apiece.

Game 2 between the Lakers and Nuggets is on Sunday.

 

Celtics face Heat

The Boston Celtics will look to dig themselves out of a 0-2 hole when they meet the red-hot Miami Heat in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals on Saturday.

Jamal Murray demanded the likes of Shaquille O'Neal and Charles Barkley start giving the Denver Nuggets "some damn respect" after their Western Conference semi-final heroics.

The Nuggets dominated the Los Angeles Clippers 104-89 in Orlando on Tuesday to progress from an all-or-nothing Game 7, becoming the first team to recover from a 3-1 deficit twice in the same postseason.

Few tipped the third-seeded Nuggets to get past a Clippers team comprising the likes of Paul George and Kawhi Leonard, particularly when the team found themselves in such a precarious position.

"You got [Shaquille O'Neal], you got Charles [Barkley], I think Zach Lowe … Stephen A. [Smith], all y'all better start giving this team some damn respect," Murray said. 

"Because we put in the work. We shouldn't have been down 3-1, but to come back down 3-1 against the Clippers is a big achievement, so it's fun just to change that narrative."

Murray was influential for the Nuggets, putting up 40 points, and he feels the star-studded Clippers failed to cope with Denver's enthusiasm.

"We've got a lot of energy, and we brought it and they didn't match that," Murray said. 

"They've got who they got. They've got a talented squad. They've got Doc [Rivers], too. They've got assistant coaches who are about to be head coaches. 

"We know what they have, we just outworked them a little bit with our young legs."

Nikola Jokic had promised head coach Michael Malone one of two presents on his 49th birthday prior to the game: "I'm either going to get you home or get you to the Western Conference Finals." 

After it proved to be the latter, Jokic said the Nuggets are relishing proving the doubters wrong.

"Nobody wants us here. Nobody thinks we can do something. We proved ourselves and proved [to] everybody we can do something," he said.

"This is a really interesting team. We don't have many superstars."

Next up is a daunting task against an in-form Los Angeles Lakers side led by LeBron James, but Jokic said: "They gotta worry about us, too."

The Denver Nuggets made history by completing another stunning comeback as they reached the Western Conference finals after blitzing the Los Angeles Clippers in their NBA series decider.

Denver won Game 7 of the Western Conference semi-finals 104-89 on Tuesday to set up a blockbuster playoff showdown against top seeds the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Nuggets overpowered the shocked Clippers as they became the first team in NBA history to overcome a 3-1 deficit to win a series twice in the same postseason, having rallied past the Utah Jazz.

Trailing 56-54 at half-time, the Nuggets outscored Kawhi Leonard's Clippers 50-33 in the second half in Orlando, Florida, where Denver will contest their first Conference final since losing to the Lakers in 2008-09.

Meanwhile, the Miami Heat dramatically prevailed 117-114 after overtime against the Boston Celtics in the opening game of their Eastern Conference final.

Jimmy Butler's three-pointer put the Heat ahead with 12 seconds remaining and Heat team-mate Bam Adebayo made an incredible block on Jayson Tatum to deny the Celtics star a game-tying dunk at the death.

 

Jokic and Murray fuel Nuggets

Just like they did in the first round of the playoffs, Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray led Denver's comeback. The duo completed the fightback against the Clippers, with Murray posting a game-high 40 points. Jokic became the first player in NBA playoff history to record a 20-plus rebound triple-double. Prior to Jokic, no player had put up a triple-double through three quarters of a Game 7 over the last 25 years. He finished with 16 points, 22 rebounds and 13 assists.

The Heat flexed their muscles with a team performance at Walt Disney World Resort. Starters Goran Dragic (29), Jae Crowder (22), Butler and Adebayo (18) all reached double-digit points. Tatum had 30 points and 14 rebounds but it was not enough for the Celtics, while Marcus Smart scored 26 of his own.

 

Clippers crumble

Poised to meet the Lakers in an all-Los Angeles Conference final, the Clippers capitulated against the Nuggets. Their woes were amplified on Tuesday. Two-time NBA champion Leonard was just six of 22 from the field for 14 points. He was only two of seven from three-point range. All-Star team-mate Paul George had 10 points on four-of-16 shooting from the field, while he made just two of his 11 attempts from beyond the arc. As a team, the Clippers were just 37.8 per cent from the field and 25.7 per cent from three-point territory.

 

Heat face Celtics

There will be no playoff action until the Heat and Celtics go head-to-head in Game 2 on Thursday.

Paul George staying out of foul trouble will be crucial to the Los Angeles Clippers' hopes of reaching the Western Conference Finals, says coach Doc Rivers.

The Clippers head into Game 7 against the Denver Nuggets in Orlando on Tuesday, with rivals the Los Angeles Lakers waiting if they can progress.

Rivers' team blew a 19-point lead in Orlando as the Nuggets forced a deciding Game 7 with a 111-98 victory on Sunday, with the Clippers having also given up a 16-point advantage in the previous contest.

The coach insists there is no secret to explain how the Clippers lost those leads and stressed the importance of his guards remaining out of foul trouble.

George, one of the NBA's premier defensive players, had four fouls in Games 4 and 5 and then five in Game 6, a contest that saw Patrick Beverley foul out in 18 minutes.

"PG can't get in foul trouble," Rivers said ahead of Game 7.

"I think he's been in foul trouble at least two, maybe three of the games, and at times he's not even guarding one of your key guys. We've just got to keep him on the floor.

"The foul trouble by our guards, they have been very hurtful in this series, and not just the last two games.

"We've got to keep our guards on the floor, because if we don't, we've got to go to lineups defensively that are not desirable."

Rivers is comforted to have two-time NBA champion Kawhi Leonard with him for such a big occasion after his heroics in the playoffs with the Toronto Raptors en route to winning last season's title.

"He's unshakable," said Rivers. "Kawhi, you can't guarantee he'll play well or not because he's human and all players are.

"But you know, the moment won't be too big. That's the one thing like with him, you just know that. So that's comforting to know that."

Discussing the two collapses against the Nuggets, Rivers said there was "no secret potion" to explain what happened on those occasions.

He added: "The two things that we didn't do, clearly defensively, they shot almost 60 per cent in the second half. The one thing that did stand out, they went to the free-throw line like on every play."

And Rivers is not planning an emotional pre-game speech to fire up his players before the pivotal matchup.

"I'm going to say 'let’s go win'," he said. "Rah-rah speeches are overrated - that's for the movies.

"They last about three minutes and then you come running out and you're fired up. And then three minutes later you've got to focus on playing basketball. So there’s no secret speech.

"The real thing is you've got to have them prepared, and preparation. That's what we’ll do, we'll get them doing what we've done to get the leads and we'll continue to do it.

"But there's nothing secret or magical. It is about playing basketball. Manning up, moving the ball and doing all of the things we can do."

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