Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic could only put both of his hands and a towel on the top of his head on the sideline as he watched the final, frantic seconds of Game 7 unfold and Mike Conley launch a 3-pointer for the win.
“I bet we were cussing him out the full [time] that Mike [went to] shoot the 3,” Jokic said.
“We are laughing right now. But it could be tragic.”
The Nuggets and Utah Jazz’s first-round series appropriately finished with a roller-coaster ending, as Denver’s Torrey Craig missed a fast-break layup with 4.4 seconds left in trying to seal the game, only to see Conley’s potential winning 3-pointer spin out of the cylinder at the buzzer to give Denver an 80-78 Game 7 victory Tuesday night in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.
“Man … first off, if we lost the game on that layup, that would’ve been so bad,” Denver’s Jamal Murray told Scott Van Pelt on SportsCenter. “Mike almost hit that. I was looking at that shot like, ‘Man, if this goes in, I’m going to be heartbroken.'”
Donovan Mitchell, who engaged in a prolific duel with Murray, laid on the floor after the buzzer, having given it his all. Mitchell scored 15 of his 22 points in the second half and helped the Jazz hold a hobbled Murray to only 17 points.
Murray, who had scored 50, 42 and 50 points in his three previous games, lifted Mitchell up at the end of a series that saw them combine to score 475 points — the most combined points by opposing players in a series in playoff history, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.
The Nuggets also joined an exclusive group by becoming only the 12th team in NBA history to overcome a 3-1 deficit and win a playoff series. The third seed in the Western Conference now faces the No. 2 LA Clippers, starting Thursday.
Denver had to survive this slugfest of a Game 7. The Nuggets scored just 30 points in the second half but seemed to have the win secured when Gary Harris poked the ball away from Mitchell on a drive. The ball went straight into Murray’s hands, and Murray and the Nuggets raced toward a fast break looking to seal the game with an easy basket.
Instead of pulling the ball out, Murray sprinted toward the basket and passed to Craig, who missed a layup, sending the Jazz running back the other way and finding Conley open on the left wing.