Denver joined the Western Conference final, after marching on Phoenix (125-100) thanks to Nikola Jokic still imperial Thursday.
Denver rallied to the Western Conference final, after marching on Phoenix (125-100) thanks to the still imperial Nikola Jokic, Boston snatching a decisive seventh game in the East, thanks to Jayson Tatum, decisive late for the victory at Philadelphia (95-86), Thursday.
This is the fifth time the Nuggets have reached this stage of the NBA playoffs. After a first dating back to 1978, without success against Seattle, the last three, in 1985, 2009 and 2020, put the Lakers on their way, with as many eliminations at the end. If LeBron James and his family manage to eliminate the defending champion Warriors (3-2), an intense reunion will take place.
In the meantime, their show of force will have been inversely proportional to the disintegration of the Suns, who had already ed in this way last year at the same stadium, crushed by Dallas at home during an equally crucial N.7 match. On the court, the contrast was striking between the conquering spirit displayed by the formation of Colorado, confirming its status as the No.1 seed inherited from a remarkable regular season, and the guilty apathy of the team of the Arizona, like becoming liquid again in the face of pressure.
The Nuggets, who folded the case at the break, reached with a 30-point lead (81-51), did not ask for so much and it was almost too easy for them, after five first matches much more hooked. But it is clear that they also achieved a performance close to excellence in all respects, like Jokic (32 pts at 13/18 on shots, 12 ists, 10 rebounds).
“We had the same state of mind as when playing at home. We were aggressive, we played rough, we made them take tough shots“, wanted to retain the double MVP 2021 and 2022, who will have averaged a triple-double in this semi-final, and was impeccably supported by Jamal Murray (26 pts) and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (21 pts).
Determined, their team indeed applied an intractable defense on Devin Booker (4/13 on shots, 12 pts, 8 ists), Kevin Durant saving appearances in the second half (23 pts).
Unlike Phoenix, Boston, back to the wall after losing at home 48 hours earlier, has found the resources to stay alive (3-3) and will have the opportunity to finish the job in front of its audience on Sunday.
Jayson Tatum, author of 16 of his 19 points in the last quarter, symbolized the resilience shown by the C’s. The winger (9 rebounds, 6 ists, 2 blocks) experienced an ordeal in attack during the first 36 minutes (1/13 on shots), before his resurrection in the period of truth, marked by four winning baskets out of five attempted, who knocked out Philadelphia.
“We had to insist, despite the difficulty, the hollow moments, because a match lasts a long time. Luckily I have great teammates who held on. Each of us had an impact on the meeting. And all that matters is that we won it“, commented the late evening hero.
Despite the failure of its leader in the first act, Boston counted up to 16 units in advance, led by Marcus Smart (22 pts), Jaylen Brown (17 pts) and Malcolm Brogdon (16 pts), while limiting the impact of Joel Embiid, then contained at 3/9 in shots.
But the MVP, finally author of 26 points (10 rebounds, 3 blocks), was able to react after the break, to allow the Sixers to erase this delay, well helped by Tyrese Maxey (26 pts). James Harden, on the other hand, never took off (13 pts at 4/16 on shots, 9 ists), he who knew how to play the saviors twice in this series.
Philly entered the last quarter in the lead (73-71). A comeback finally not followed by effect, because the defense of the Celtics was intractable, conceding only five baskets out of twenty attempted.
And to resurface the specter of the curse which seems not to have to let go of Doc Rivers, who now risks losing a fourth game of play-offs, after having nevertheless led 3-2 and therefore had the opportunity to win. Three failures suffered in 2009, 2010 and 2012, when he was coaching … Boston.