Basketball: Jokic, second-half surge fuel Nuggets past Clippers

Basketball: Jokic, second-half surge fuel Nuggets past Clippers

(REUTERS) – Nikola Jokic totalled 34 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists, and the Denver Nuggets overcame a 19-point second-half deficit in a 111-98 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers to force a Game 7 in their Western Conference semifinal series near Orlando.

It was the Nuggets’ fifth consecutive win in an elimination game in these playoffs. They will need a sixth to advance to the conference finals.

But Denver’s resilience was present in its second consecutive furious rally after the break.

The Nuggets outscored the second-seeded Clippers 64-35 in the second half, and held Los Angeles to 26.3 percent shooting. That included a stretch of 10 consecutive Los Angeles misses in the third quarter, which helped Denver trim a 19-point deficit before taking control in the final period.

Jokic scored 11 of his points in the fourth quarter, including back-to-back 3-pointers to give the Nuggets a 91-84 lead with 8:14 to play. Later, a Jokic jumper pushed that lead to 10, before another 3-pointer by the two-time All-Star made the score 106-93 with 2:27 to play.

The Nuggets outscored the Clippers 30-16 in the third quarter, including a 17-0 run to slice Los Angeles’ advantage to 73-72 on a Gary Harris layup with 3:29 to play in the period.

Denver tied the game at 79 on a layup by Torrey Craig in the fourth quarter’s opening minute, then took its first lead since the opening minute when Craig buried a corner 3 on Denver’s next possession.

The Nuggets shot 61.1 percent in the second half, including a 7-of-12 mark from 3-point range.

Denver’s Jamal Murray finished with 21 points, five rebounds and five assists, and stayed in the game after hitting the floor hard after getting blocked by George under the basket early in the third quarter. Gary Harris added 16 points, four rebounds and four steals.

Paul George finished with 33 points, six rebounds and five steals, while Kawhi Leonard totaled 25 points, eight rebounds, five assists and two steals.

The Clippers built a 10-point first-quarter lead. Denver used a 17-7 second-quarter run – highlighted by a one-footed, hoisted 3-pointer at the end of the shot clock by Jokic – to cut that advantage to 47-45 with 5:52 to go before the half. But the Clippers answered with 10 consecutive points, and eventually took a 53-47 lead into the locker room.