Jokic, Nuggets hold off Spurs 90-86 in Game 7 to advance

Time was winding down and the San Antonio Spurs couldn’t hear their coach screaming for someone to foul over all the noise.

That’s one for the Denver crowd.

The Nuggets also are making some noise.

Nikola Jokic had another triple-double, Jamal Murray hit a clutch floater with 36.8 seconds remaining and the Nuggets held off the Spurs 90-86 in Game 7 on Saturday night to advance in the postseason for the first time in a decade.

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“I love the grit, the resiliency, the toughness we played with tonight,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “Even late when they made their run … we never lost our composure.”

Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic faces the cameras after the second half of Game 7 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series, Saturday, April 27, 2019, in Denver. The Nuggets won 90-86 to advance to the second round against Portland. (Associated Press)

Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic faces the cameras after the second half of Game 7 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series, Saturday, April 27, 2019, in Denver. The Nuggets won 90-86 to advance to the second round against Portland. (Associated Press)

In a matchup between a Denver team with the youngest playoff roster in the West and the savvy Spurs, the second-seeded Nuggets built a 17-point lead in the third quarter only to see it whittled down to two with 52 seconds remaining.

Jokic finished with 21 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists, with no pass bigger than the one to set up Murray’s floater. DeMar DeRozan had a chance to slice into the deficit but was blocked by Torrey Craig. With time running out, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich yelled and yelled for someone to commit a foul, just to prolong the game. The roar was too loud. The Nuggets were able to essentially run out the time and begin their celebration.

“After the game you’re thinking, ‘Why didn’t they foul?'” Craig said.

Easy: It was just too loud. Denver went an NBA-best 34-7 at home in the regular season and rode the energy of the packed house all the way to the end.

“I missed it,” LaMarcus Aldridge said of Popovich calling a foul. “That’s it.”

Since making the Western Conference finals in 2009, the Nuggets have bowed out in the first round on four occasions. This was their first playoff appearance in six seasons.

Denver will host third-seeded Portland in a second-round series that begins Monday.

Murray added 23 points for the Nuggets, who captured a Game 7 for the first time since May 3, 1978, when David Thompson had 37 in a win over the Milwaukee Bucks.

The Nuggets never trailed Saturday.

“Anxiety is a good word,” Malone joked.

Rudy Gay had 21 points for San Antonio, while DeRozan and Bryn Forbes each added 19. The Spurs fell to 3-4 in Games 7s under Popovich.

Jokic turned in another monster game. Jokic showed off his arsenal of shots, even throwing in a sky hook. He played a little more than 43 minutes — just slightly down from the 48 minutes Malone pledged to play him during pregame.

“Bumps and bruises, whatever,” Jokic said. “You need to fight them in this moment.”

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Told his numbers for the series — 162 points, 85 rebounds, 64 assists — Jokic responded:

“And win,” he said.

The big man also had a triple-double in Game 1.

“He’s magnificent, magnificent,” Popovich said. “I’ll just leave it at that.”

It was a forgettable first half for the Spurs, who trailed 47-34 after shooting 22.2% from the floor. The Spurs hit 10 of 19 shots in the fourth quarter.

“If we had that in the first half we would have had a better chance of winning,” DeRozan said.

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