Miami, United States (AFP) – The Denver Nuggets bounced back with a vengeance on Saturday, powering to a 110-101 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers to even their NBA playoff series 1-1.
It was all-square between the Toronto Raptors and Boston Celtics, too, after the Raptors notched a second straight win, 100-93, to knot their Eastern Conference semi-final series 2-2 in the NBA’s quarantine bubble in Orlando, Florida.
The Nuggets, routed 120-97 in game one of the Western Conference series on Thursday, turned the tables with a blistering first half in which they led by as many as 23 points.
“Game one, we were tired. I hate to admit it, but we were tired,” said guard Jamal Murray, who led Denver with 27 points. “We came out sloppy, came out exhausted, fatigued. We didn’t make any shots, we didn’t get back on defense.
“Tonight we just upped the energy and that’s all it took to win.”
Nikola Jokic added 26 points and 18 rebounds for Denver, who had rallied from a 3-1 deficit to beat the Utah Jazz in seven games in the first round.
The two — who combined for 27 points in game one — had a total of 26 between them by the end of the first quarter as the Nuggets took a 44-25 lead.
It was 72-56 at half-time, and the Nuggets were up by 12 going into the final quarter.
The Clippers managed to cut the deficit to five early in the fourth and they got it to seven on Marcus Morris’s three-pointer with two and a half minutes remaining. Murray promptly answered with a three-pointer and the Nuggets were away again.
“I thought tonight we were a noticeably different team than we were in game one,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said.
Paul George scored 22 points for the Clippers and Ivica Zubac added 15.
Two-time NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard finished with 13 points on four-of-17 shooting with 10 rebounds and eight assists.
“They were the aggressor tonight,” Leonard said. “A few easy ones didn’t fall early, and that was it from there.”
Pascal Siakam shook off a slow start to score 23 points as the NBA champion Toronto Raptors levelled the series.
Kyle Lowry scored 22 points and grabbed 11 rebounds with seven assists for the Raptors, who won their second straight game and will try to gain the upper hand in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference series for the first time in game five on Monday.