Nuggets 80 Jazz 78

Game 7s are supposed to be the best thing ever.

Jim Rome
September 02, 2020 - 9:23 am
Donovan Mitchell and Jamal Murray

USA Today

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Game 7s are supposed to be the best thing ever. It’s supposed to be the culmination of an even series, all coming down to one final game. And the first six games of Utah-Denver were incredible. Donovan Mitchell going for 50-plus twice. Jamal Murray going for 50-plus twice. It set the stage for a Game 7 that was going to be an all-timer: The kind of shootout that none of us would forget and would always talk about. 

Except it wasn’t. Utah vs. Denver last night was not awesome. Two gassed heavyweights, standing In the middle of the ring, throwing desperate haymakers and not landing anything.

Here are the winning totals for the previous six games: 135, 124, 124, 129, 117, 119.

And the winning score last night: 80. Oof.

A team scoring 78 points in this series meant it was the end of the third quarter. Last night, that’s what Utah had at the end of the game and they still damn near stole it at the buzzer.

Six electric games and one brutal ground and pound game. It’s like we were suddenly launched back into 2003 for a Spurs-Nets finals game. I was expecting Kerry Kittles and Jason Kidd to come walking through that door at any minute.

Utah didn’t even crack 40 points in the first half. Denver barely got to 30 in the second half. Utah scored 15 points in the second quarter. Then Denver scored 15 in the third and fourth. Sure, it doesn’t really matter how it looks: but that looked ugly. 

And that’s not a criticism of either team. Jamal Murray had a bad leg and both teams were flat out gassed. They left absolutely everything on the floor in the previous six games and had nothing left last night.

But as bad as that game was for stretches, and AGAIN. It really was ugly, the last minute was absolutely insanity.

But before we get to that, how about a nod to the Jazz who were down 19 at one point in the third and then managed to brawl and grind their way back into the game and take a three point lead in the fourth? That is freaking heart. It would’ve been a lot easier to tap out, to throw in the towel and take the first thing smoking out of the bubble. But they didn’t. They kept fighting.

And speaking of fighting, let’s not forget that Denver won the first game of this series, then lost three straight, and were down by double digits in the second half of an elimination game. It would’ve been really easy for them to say, we’re missing some guys, we gave it a shot, but let’s get the hell out of here. But they didn’t do that either. 

So what happens when you have two exhausted, but proud teams battling in a game seven? You get a final minute like the one we got last night. 

Rudy Gobert had a shaky first half, but he was an absolute force in the second half. Remember all that talk about how Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert didn’t like each other after the positive tests? Yeah, there didn’t seem to be much animosity between them last night. They were battling their asses off together. And with just under a minute left, Gobert and Mike Conley hooked up for an alley-oop

And not only did Rudy throw it down to tie the game, he threw it down and got a Mason Plumlee rake to the face. The Plumdog Millionaire gave Gobert a free exfoliation on that play, but it wasn’t called and you know Jazz fans have to be pissed about that.

Denver calls a timeout and then goes into their big man. And before I roll this clip, let’s just point out the fact that Joker is a bad man and he is a very, very bad man in Game 7s. He’s quietly put together one hell of a Game 7 resume. And he added to that with less than 30 seconds to go.

I don’t know where Joker was going on that play. Gobert played rock solid defense, had him locked up, and wasn’t leaving his feet. And Joker flips up that baby hook rainbow, and it worked to give Denver the 80-78 lead.

And here’s where the insanity really starts. Utah calls timeout, they go to in-bound the ball, but Denver’s Gary Harris, who had a brutal shooting night, but was a glove on defense, locks up the play and forces them to call another time out.

Utah comes out of that huddle with 17.4 seconds left and the mayhem really begins.

How did that not go down? That touched two parts of the rim before popping back out.

Be honest with me – you thought that three from Conley was going down. I know I did. And it would’ve been a perfect ending for his story. Misses time earlier in the series for the birth of his child and then comes back to win the series on the final shot.

It would’ve been an insane ending for the Jazz and the ultimate kick in the package for the Nuggets, especially when you see the replay and it looks like Gobert had a foot out of bounds holding the ball before passing it to Conley, but the officials never noticed.

Again, I can’t believe how close that was to going down and how close Denver was to suffering a hideous loss in the final seconds. If that shot goes down and Denver loses, Torrey Craig is never hearing the ending of that missed layup. And neither is Murray for not dribbling out the clock.

No wonder Craig crashed Murray’s press conference and tried to explain himself.

I love Craig walking out and saying “my bad!” Because that was his bad, but if Conley scores, that’s so much worse. If Conley scores, that would be, to use Joker’s word, tragic.

Conley got a good look, now. And it really should’ve gone down. When it didn’t, Mitchell collapsed to the floor and there was a great moment when Jamal Murray went over to comfort him and pay his respects.

That was cool. Two great players who took their games to a higher level over the course of this series. An awesome series capped off by a Game 7 that was brutal for 47 minutes and sheer adrenaline for 60 seconds.

Now the Jazz leave the bubble and the Nuggets get the Clippers tomorrow night. No rest at all for a team that looked absolutely exhausted. Any other team and I’d say they’re finished, but not a Michael Malone team. Don’t count them out. Not dead, can’t quit.  Not dead, can’t quit.