The Denver Nuggets, with two stars in full bloom, Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray, and a formidable teamwork, caused a sensation and clinched the Clippers with a beating in the seventh and final game of the Western Conference semifinal (89-104). The Colorado team made huge differences and prevailed with unexpected authority over an increasingly depressed and helpless rival, who lost a unique chance to qualify for the first time in their history for the Conference final.
The Nuggets thus rallied the series, in which they trailed 3-1. He also raised it based on comebacks in each of the markers of the three appointments that he forced before the despair of some Clippers who, from the fifth game, had enough with a victory to settle the matter. But the Nuggets kept the faith, improved their game and lifted 16 points behind in that fifth game, 19 in the sixth and 12 in the seventh. It was the second time they came back from a 3-1 adverse in the playoffs. They had also achieved it in the first round of the Conference, against Utah. They thus became the first team in NBA history to come back from 3-1 twice in the same edition of the playoffs.
Los Angeles derby frustrated
The euphoria in Denver was directly proportional to the disappointment in the Clippers. The team led by Doc Rivers was strengthened this season with the arrival of Kawhi Leonard, the new champion and MVP of the finals just over a year ago with the Raptors, and Paul George, one of the best players in the championship, from Oklahoma City. The Clippers responded to expectations in the regular season, in which they added 49 wins, only surpassed in the West by the Lakers. It was expected that the Clippers would reach the final of the Conference for the first time and that a derby between the two Los Angeles teams would also be played there for the first time, unprecedented in the playoffs.
There will be no California final in the West because the Nuggets kept the faith in the worst moments and, game by game, they were sapping the morale and strength of the Clippers. Nikola Jokic outperformed himself if possible in each of the games and although in the seventh he was far from his 34 points in the sixth, he also marked differences. Despite missing all four of his triples, he added a triple-double with 16 points, 22 rebounds and 13 assists, as well as two steals and three blocks. The offensive weight was carried by point guard Jamal Murray with six triples and 40 points, unstoppable for Beverley, Leonard, George, who took turns trying to stop him.
The Clippers came to dominate by 12 points in the first half, but the Nuggets, already before the break, reduced the gap on the scoreboard to a minimum. At the start of the second half, 3-pointers by Grant, Millsap and Murray put their team ahead. The Clippers were sinking without the possibility of holding on to Kawhi Leonard, misguided as few times, with 6 hits on 22 shots from the field. He had 14 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists Paul George didn’t come to the rescue. He stayed at 10 points and 4 rebounds. The Clippers only scored 9 of the 35 triples they shot (25%) and captured 16 fewer rebounds than their rival.
The last quarter was a walk for the Nuggets, the team led by Mike Malone and whose assistant coach is Jordi Fernández from Spain. The Nuggets, who have never played in the NBA Finals, qualify for the sixth time for the Conference finals. The last time they did it was in 2009 with George Karl as coach and with a team that included Carmelo Anthony, Billups, Kenyon Martin, Nene Hilario and JR Smith.
The Clippers, on the other hand, accentuate their status as a junior team. The frustrated expectations this season add to those of even more difficult times before. They did not take advantage of the privilege of choosing three number one from the draft in the last 31 years, Danny Manning (1988), Michael Olowokandi (1998) and Blake Griffin (2009), number two as Danny Ferry (1989), Antonio McDyess (1995) and Tyson Chandler (2001), and not having had figures like Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan or Elton Brand.
To add insult to injury, its owner since 1981, Donald Sterling, was expelled from the NBA for the racist comments he made to his girlfriend Vanesa Stiviano in April 2014. However, the embarrassment and crisis over his owner’s delirium, could have been the turning point in the club’s stormy history. After the scandal, Steve Ballmer, the former CEO of Microsoft, reached an agreement to buy the franchise for 2 billion dollars, about 1.79 billion euros.
The results of Steve Ballmer’s new guidelines were not immediate. Unlike. He had to face again shameful episodes like the one that Blake Griffin starred in when he assaulted a team material manager in a Toronto restaurant in January 2016. Griffin had already been charged with another incident for hitting a man in a club Las Vegas night in 2014. Neither Chris Paul nor Blake Griffin were comfortable on the Clippers. The first was traded to Houston in June 2017; the second, to Detroit, in January 2018; and at the end of that season, DeAndre Jordan was sent to Dallas.
Clippers, 89; Denver, 104
Clippers: Beverley (11), Marcus Morris (7), Leonard (14), Paul George (10), Zubac (6) -starting team-; Green (11), Harrell (22), Lou Williams (7), Shamet (3), R. Jackson (0).
Denver: Murray (40), Harris (14), Grant (14), Millsap (6), Jokic (16) -starting team-; Plumlee (1), Porter (2), Craig (6) and Monte Morris (5).
Partial: 24-24, 32-30, 18-28 and 15-22.
A plug from Bam Adebayo to JaysonTatum decided the spectacular and even contest that opened the final of the Eastern Conference (114-117). The action of the 23-year-old center, with two seconds remaining until the conclusion of overtime, gave the Miami Heat the first point in dispute against the Celtics.
There were still two more actions. Adebayo scored one of the free throws after receiving a foul from Grant. And Tatum, on the horn, missed a triple in a very bad position. If he entered, he would have forced the second extension. The Celtics were close to victory when they led 105-100 with one minute to go in regular time. But the Heat demonstrated their ability to resolve compromises with a triple from 20-year-old rookie Tyler Herro, extraordinary this season and especially in the playoffs, and another from Jimmy Butler.
At 105-106 for the Heat, a foul by Jones to Smart without the ball in play allowed Tatum to score the tying free throw at 106. Tatum himself was even able to solve for the Celtics, but missed a triple over the horn, a anticipation of what was going to happen again at the end of the extension.
The two teams played with great speed and an extraordinary aim in the triples, both hovering around 44% of success in the first half. The Celtics failed more in the second half and especially in the closing stages of both regulation and overtime. The duel between Butler and Tatum was very attractive. The Celtics forward dominated with 30 points, 14 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals and 2 blocks. But Butler was more accurate in the decisive moments and finished with 20 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists.
Goran Dragic was the main problem for the Celtics defense. The Heat point guard had 29 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists. Marcus Smart gave him the reply with 6 triples and 26 points. Crowder, with 5 triples and 22 points, and Adebayo, with 18 points, 6 rebounds and 9 assists, and Herro, who touched the triple double with 12 points, 11 rebounds and 9 assists, fed the Heat counter.
Celtics guard Kemba Walker was not successful in shooting, only scored one of the nine triples he shot and finished with 19 points and 6 assists. However, he was about to decide with a basket 23 seconds from the end of overtime that put the 114-113 on the scoreboard. But immediately afterwards, Butler landed a basket and scored the additional free kick after being fouled by Tatum, who was then put in the decisive block by Adebayo.
The victory endorses the Miami Heat’s outstanding career in the playoffs. The team led by Erik Spoelstra, fifth in the regular season of the League, has only lost one of the 10 games it has played after 4-0 in the first round against Indiana, 4-1 against Milwaukee in the conference semifinals and 1-0 against the Celtics in the East final. The Celtics hope to soon regain starting forward Gordon Hayward who is recovering from an ankle injury in the Los Angeles first game. playoffs against the Sixers.
Boston, 114; Miami, 117
Celtics: Kemba Walker (19), Smart (26), Brown (17), Tatum (30), Theis (4) -start team-; Okeleye (2), G. Williams (3), R. Williams (2) and Wanamaker (11).
Miami: Dragic (29), Duncan Robinson (6), Butler (20), Crowder (22), Adebayo (18) -starting team-; Herro (12), Olynyk (4), Jones (0), Iguodala (3) and Nunn (3).
Partial: 26-18, 29-37, 28-16, 23-35 and in overtime, 8-11.
Eliminated: Theis (m.49)
Boston, 114; Miami, 117 (0-1)
Second game: Boston-Miami Early morning from Thursday to Friday (1.00)
Clippers, 89; Denver, 104 (3-4)
Lakers, 119; Houston, 96 (4-1)
First game: early morning from Friday to Saturday (3.00).