DENVER – The Denver Nuggets, the second seed in the Western Conference, lost 16 points against the San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday night and about 18 minutes from falling to a disastrous 0-2 hole in the series.
Denver head coach Mike Malone requested a timeout with 5:45 left in the third quarter with his team losing 73-57 and conjured the Los Angeles Clippers making their big comeback against the Golden State Warriors to motivate your team.
"I could see in the faces of some guys how this game is going to go?" Malone said. "… I reminded them what the Clippers did [Monday] The night and how much basketball is left. However, it will only happen if we believe, commit, fight and attack, and the boys took it seriously, and we closed the game in a 57-32 race from that moment on ".
The Nuggets would reach 19 in the third, but with Jamal Murray erupting for 21 of his 24 points in an explosive fourth quarter, the Nuggets completed a comeback that could save the season. They achieved their first postseason playoff victory to match the best of seven series with 1-1 with a 114-105 victory over the Spurs.
Although the Nuggets did not overcome a deficit of 31 points as the Clippers did the night before in the 135-131 victory to surprise the defending champions, their 19-point rally started at the 4:28 mark in the third. quarter was tied for the third lost lead by the Spurs under coach Gregg Popovich in the playoffs.
"We gave up  points in the fourth quarter, end of the story, "said Popovich after the loss." … Paul [Millsap] And Jamal had a lot to do with that, obviously. They both hurt us a lot, and we did not have an answer for either of them. "
With much of the Nuggets team experiencing the postseason for the first time, Denver came out and stayed behind by 19 in the second quarter. Millsap, one of the few Nuggets with playoff experience, scored 15 points in the first half and prevented Denver from falling behind by much more.
Murray and Will Barton failed to make a shot in the first three quarters, combining to get 1 of 18 during that span.
After throwing 8-of-23 and failing his six 3-point attempts in Game 1, Murray remained an hour after that competition to shoot on the team's practice court until Saturday night after the Denver loss for 101-96. In the final 57.7 seconds of Game 1, Murray missed a three-pointer, missed an 18-footer that would have put the Nuggets ahead and turned the ball around.
"He just recovered mentally," said Murray about how emotionally the two days between games were. "Obviously I was not happy with myself, frustrated, the way I played … I rushed everything, I was excited, I let the crowd, the incredible energy, attack me."
"I wanted to enter Game 2 relaxed."
Murray tried to start up the Pepsi Center at the start of Game 2, but he missed what would have been a tremendous dunk before. At halftime, Malone told Murray to calm down and just breathe.
"He was so frustrated at halftime, without making shots, shots that he made his whole career," Malone said. "I just grabbed him and told him to breathe deeply, every shot at this moment is like the end of the world."
Meanwhile, Murray's counterpart, Derrick White, was following his excellent performance in Game 1 by making 7 of 10 shots on Tuesday and scoring all of his 17 points for the Spurs in the first three quarters.
Gary Harris scored 14 of his 23 points in the third to keep the Nuggets within striking distance of entering the fourth. Murray, who had missed all eight shots and had only three points after three-quarters, walked to the floor at the beginning of the quarter and looked at the crowd of 19,520.
Murray said seeing all the fans waving his playoff towels reminded him of his childhood dream of playing in front of a sold-out playoff crowd.
Then Murray caught fire. He hit eight consecutive shots that come in all kinds of variety – pullups, fadeaways, triples. Then, in a span of 19 seconds, Murray launched a double hit that eliminated the Spurs. Hit a 3-point fadeaway. And after Spurs forward Rudy Gay lost the ball, Murray went down and drilled a pull-up 3 against Popovich and the Spurs bench to give the Nuggets a 110-101 lead with 2:12. remaining while the Pepsi Center exploded.
Murray pumped his fist and pulled out his "Blue Arrow" celebration next to the scorer's table while playoff towels waved everywhere.
"Quite perfect," Murray said of that moment. "As I imagined it, when I enter the area, everyone knows I'm in an area, I go crazy, I have a lot of fun, I love the game with pbadion, I was bady, and I decided to get up."
The series is tied 1-1, and now the young Nuggets go to San Antonio looking to regain the advantage of the local court.
"He needs this," Malone said when asked if there was any consideration for placing Murray in fourth place because he was cold. "… I did not foresee the fourth quarter I was going to have, but I knew in my heart that I needed to get these minutes, I needed to be there, I needed to show him that I believed in him."
"The first of many for Jamal Murray," Malone added to the playmaker's playoff performance. "I have no doubt."