All series long, Jamal Murray had carried the Nuggets with his offense in a showdown against Donovan Mitchell and the Jazz, a series that was full of entertainment and shotmaking, but light on defense.
Then, with the series on the line in the final minute of Game 7, it wasn’t Murray’s offense, it was Gary Harris‘ defense on Mitchell — and a couple of missed shots — that sealed a dramatic 80-78 win and advanced Denver to the next round.
The dramatic final 30 seconds started with some sweet footwork and a bucket by Nikola Jokic over Rudy Gobert that put Denver ahead.
Then things got wild. Really wild.
After a timeout to set up the play — which everyone knew was Mitchell attacking the basket — Denver’s Gary Harris poked the ball out of Mitchell’s hands from behind. It landed in the hands of Murray, who could/should have just dribbled out the clock and forced Utah to foul, but instead the young player went for the jugular and pushed the ball in transition, made the perfect pass to Torrey Craig… who missed the layup with Gobert there.
Gobert grabbed the rebound with 4.5 seconds left, stepped out of bounds with his back foot (which the referees missed), got the ball ahead to Mike Conley — and there was Mitchell, standing alone on the right wing, nobody within 20 feet of him. Wide open for a jumper.
Conley — who shot 2-of-13 on the night — pushes the ball up, never sees Mitchell, and launches a clean-look leaning three himself for the win.
It rims out.
Mitchell collapsed on the court.
He had been the force that carried the Jazz back into this game after falling behind by as many as 19 early in the third. It was fitting, Mitchell had been the force that carried this team all series. Then with the game on the line, the ball didn’t find him.
The first guy over to pick him up off the floor? Murray. Game recognizes game.
Murray had just 17 points in Game 7, but it was a fitting end to an insane series, one capped by Denver coming back from 3-1 down to advance.
The Nuggets get little rest, they tip off the conference semifinals against the Clippers on Thursday.