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It took a somewhat miraculous 19-point comeback for the Denver Nuggets to even force a Game 7 but all that would be just preamble to what they hope to accomplish Tuesday night. In the first round of the playoffs, the Nuggets won three straight games over the Jazz to pull off the infamous 3-1 comeback. They advanced from that series despite getting outscored by a total of 24 points across the seven games, in large part because they caught fire when it mattered most — outscoring the Jazz by 41.7 points per 100 possessions across 20 clutch minutes.
The Nuggets are now one win away from a second consecutive 3-1 comeback. They have been outscored by a total of 12 points across the first six games but somehow they’re in a position to advance.
Nikola Jokic’s huge Game 6 — 34 points, 14 rebounds, 7 assists — is the stuff game story ledes are made of but they’re getting contributions from several role players who had been struggling. Gary Harris was dealing with nagging injuries and made his first NBA bubble appearance in Game 6 against the Jazz. He finished that series 2-of-13 from the field and 2-of-7 but he’s been 10-of-21 from beyond the arc (and has added 11 steals) in Games 2-6 against the Clippers, adding some much-needed spacing and defensive versatility to the Nuggets rotation.
Michael Porter Jr.’s embarrassing comments after Game 4 about needing more shots didn’t exactly open the floodgates of scoring opportunities but he’s made the most of what he’s gotten, scoring 20 points on 10 shots and at least trying on the other end, with 12 rebounds and a pair of blocks. Jamal Murray hasn’t been the flamethrower he was against the Jazz, but he’s at least been consistently efficient in the last two games.
The Nuggets will absolutely need all three of those guys to be the best versions of themselves in Game 7, but it seems clear that completing the comeback rests on Jokic being the best player on the floor. No matter how well Harris and Murray are playing, the Clippers will always have a talent advantage on the wings because of Paul George and Kawhi Leonard. Jokic has to score and he has to use his passing to keep pressure on the Clippers defense and punish them for slow and lazy rotations.
The odds are not in their favor — 538 gives the Clippers a 58 percent chance of winning Game 7. But the odds really haven’t been in the Nuggets’ favor at any point during the playoffs and they’ve still ground out seven wins in 13 tries. One more is certainly on the table.
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