Canadian Jamal Murray scores 50 as Nuggets force Game 7 against Jazz
Kawhi Leonard, Clippers eliminate Mavericks with 111-97 victory
The Jamal Murray-Donovan Mitchell duel will be settled in the first Game 7 in the bubble.
Murray extended his torrid run with 50 more points, leading the Denver Nuggets to a 119-107 victory over the Utah Jazz on Sunday night.
Murray had his second 50-point game of the series to equal Mitchell, who finished with 44 in this one. No player has ever had more in an entire post-season.
They will go at it one more time Tuesday night, with the winner advancing to face the Los Angeles Clippers.
The Clippers finished off the Dallas Mavericks in six games on the same court a few hours earlier.
"They believe in me, I believe in them and we're trying to be this 12th team to come back from down 3-1," said Murray, whose right sneaker had a picture of George Floyd and his left Breonna Taylor, two Black people killed by police this spring.
Denver is trying to become the 12th team to rally from a 3-1 deficit to win a series and the first since 2016, when the Cleveland Cavaliers completed the only one of those comebacks that came in the NBA Finals.
The Nuggets won the opener, but the Jazz won the next three games and were in good shape to finish it in Game 5, holding a 15-point lead in the third quarter.
Murray led the charge back in that game, finishing with 42 points, and then was a sizzling 17 of 24 in Game 6, going 9 for 12 behind the 3-point arc.
Mitchell also hit nine 3-pointers and increased what was the NBA's top-scoring average in these playoffs at 37.6 points per game.
WATCH | Jamal Murray too much for Jazz:
In the fourth quarter alone, Murray outscored Mitchell 21-17, helping prevent the Jazz from ever getting close enough to have a real chance of finishing the series.
Murray had a little more help, with Nikola Jokic scoring 22 points and Jerami Grant adding 18.
Mike Conley had 21 points for the Jazz, but Rudy Gobert and Jordan Clarkson were each only held to 11.
“I just want to win... in life you find things that hold value to you, find things to fight for, and we found things worth fighting for in the NBA as a collective unit.”<br><br>An emotional Jamal Murray after scoring 50 points in a must win game. <a href="https://t.co/yrmmmjhuw8">pic.twitter.com/yrmmmjhuw8</a>—@NBA
A seventh game between the third-seeded Nuggets and No. 6 Jazz seems fitting. Though Denver won all three meetings during the regular season, the total margin was just 11 points.
The Jazz came into the day topping all teams in the postseason in field goal percentage and 3-point percentage, and ranking third in scoring with 121.8 points per game. And they looked early as if they would eclipse all those numbers.
The Nuggets started 5 of 6 but were just trying to keep up as the Jazz hit their first seven shots. Conley made a 3-pointer from the corner while falling down to beat the shot clock and then later banked in one, keeping Utah rolling even on the possessions when Denver defended well.
But the Jazz left plenty of points on the board by going 3 for 9 on free throws, so their lead was only six. Murray then heated up on his way to a 14-point second quarter and Utah shot just 4 for 16 as the Nuggets surged to a 10-point advantage before taking a 61-56 lead to the locker room.
Leonard leads Clippers past Mavs to reach 2nd round
The Los Angeles Clippers knocked him around and shut his teammates down, and still Luka Doncic kept coming.
Kawhi Leonard wasn't worried, because nothing rattles him in the post-season.
"This is playoff basketball and everything is not going to go your way," Leonard said. "You're going to have downs and ups. Just got to keep playing."
Now his team will keep playing into the second round.
Leonard had 33 points and 14 rebounds and the Clippers eliminated Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks with a 111-97 victory Sunday in Game 6 of the first-round series.
Doncic capped a superb first post-season with 38 points, nine rebounds and nine assists, keeping it interesting into the fourth quarter even while playing without injured teammate Kristaps Porzingis.
But with Leonard reaching the 30-point mark for his career-best fifth straight playoff game and a strong defensive effort, the Clippers simply had too many answers.
"I'm proud of our team, how we fight," Doncic said. "I think we fight until the end. The Clippers have an amazing team so it was hard, but I think we gave everything."
The No. 2 seed in the Western Conference advanced to a second-round meeting with either Denver or Utah. The sixth-seeded Jazz were trying to close that series out in six games later Sunday.
Paul George and Ivica Zubac added 15 points apiece for the Clippers, who turned up their defence in this one after winning Game 5 with the best offensive performance in their post-season history, when they shot 63% and romped to a 154-111 victory.
Perhaps it was too much to ask to be that sharp again after a four-day layoff, but they didn't need to be even while playing most of the game without starting forward Marcus Morris, who was ejected for a flagrant foul against Doncic in the first quarter.
'He got us in place'
Leonard also had seven assists and five steals. The Clippers said he was the first player in at least the last 20 postseasons with 30 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and five steals in a game.
"You can tell he was the one guy that shoots to close out a series," Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. "He was calm. He got us in place."
Kawhi Leonard becomes the 1st player to post 30+ PTS, 10+ REB, 5+ AST and 5+ STL in an <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/NBAPlayoffs?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#NBAPlayoffs</a> game since Gary Payton in 2000. <a href="https://twitter.com/EliasSports?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@EliasSports</a> <a href="https://t.co/pEr9pdeGvj">pic.twitter.com/pEr9pdeGvj</a>—@nbastats
The Mavericks had only two field goals in the first six minutes of the third quarter, both by Doncic, and by the time he made the second the Clippers had opened the half with a 20-3 run that turned a six-point lead into a 77-54 lead.
But Doncic wouldn't quit, with a 3-pointer and two three-point plays in the final 1:28 to cut it to 85-74.
He made another 3 that trimmed it to 88-82 with 9:27 to play but Dallas couldn't get any closer. Los Angeles began putting the ball in Leonard's hands and he delivered with eight straight Clippers points before consecutive 3-pointers by Reggie Jackson pushed it to 105-89.
Dallas was in its first post-season since 2016 but quickly learned about the physicality, mixing it up with Morris on multiple occasions.
The Clippers led by two when Morris was ejected for swinging his arm down and striking a driving Doncic in the head or neck area. The Clippers picked up their defence in the second period, limiting the Mavs to 17 points and 33.3% shooting to open a 57-51 advantage at the break.