The Utah Jazz tried to force the left-handed James Harden to his right to make things more hard on him on Game 1 of their first-round playoff series against the Houston Rockets on Sunday night. His three-point play at the 4:54 mark of the period extended the lead to 74-61 and, when Harden drilled a stepback 3-pointer with 3:09 left in the third, the Rockets reclaimed their 15-point lead.
Pick up the pace - As Rockets head coach Mike D'Antoni noted Saturday, they need to push the pace against Utah and avoid running the shot clock down repeatedly.
Jokic's accomplishment was rendered a footnote by LaMarcus Aldridge's suffocating defence, DeMar DeRozen's 18 points, Derrick White's clinching steal in the closing seconds and all those wide-open shots that just didn't fall for Denver. But they never got the chance to tie it because White, a second-year pro who moved into a bigger role when Dejounte Murray got hurt in the preseason, stripped Murray and drew the foul, then sank both shots.
The Nuggets can not afford to lose game 2 and go down 2-0 to a Gregg Popovich team before heading to San Antonio.
As the Spurs prepare for this long series, all the components that came together for last night's win is confirmation that the Spurs have the ingredients to avoid an early round exit in the playoffs, when it matters. Capela finished with 16 points and 12 rebounds while Gobert had a career playoff high of 22 points to go with 12 boards.
Making their first playoff appearance in six years, the Nuggets trailed most of the night, but they trimmed a 12-point deficit to one in the final minute.
Popovich said it was a wash because Aldridge, who was 6-for-19 for 15 points, really didn't get going, either. Utah seemed convinced it must stop Harden, hoping the other players wouldn't be able to beat them.More news: Patrick Kluivert backing Liverpool to win the Premier League
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But if there is one thing that can always be said about a team coached by Greg Popovich, it is that you better not sleep on them. Denver went into halftime down 59-51 after shooting 2-13 from the 3-point line.
Denver, the youngest team in the National Basketball Association, went from just outside the playoffs a year ago to the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference. So, coach Michael Malone said before tip-off he expected his team to come out a bundle of nerves.
"That's something that we always emphasize", said forward PJ Tucker, the Rockets' best defender. "I don't know. Maybe we thought we were going to lose". The playoffs started with two upsets as the Toronto Raptors and the Philadelphia 76ers loss their home opener followed by the San Antonio Spurs going on the road and defeating the Denver Nuggets.
The Nuggets could only muster 20 points in the first quarter while shooting only 29 percent from the field and, to make matters worse, the Nuggets shot an terrible 1-9 from beyond the arc.
Denver: The Nuggets are 6-21 against the Spurs in the playoffs. The Houston Rockets have won each of their last eight home games.
The Denver Nuggets are headed to the postseason for the first time since 2013.