LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Nikola Jokic picked out two birthday presents for his coach. He just didn't know which one he would be wrapping.
“Before the game I told him, 'Coach, I’m going to give you a really good present — I'm going to get you home or I'm going to get you to the conference finals,'” the Nuggets center said.
Michael Malone was thrilled with the present he received.
Denver's dynamic duo of Jamal Murray and Jokic led another stunning turnaround as the Nuggets advanced to the Western Conference finals for the first time since 2009.
Murray scored 40 points, Jokic had a triple-double by the third quarter and Denver again overcame a double-digit deficit to shock the Los Angeles Clippers 104-89 in Game 7 on Tuesday night.
Denver became the first team in NBA history to rally from a 3-1 series deficit twice in the same postseason. The team beat Utah in Game 7 in the first round.
“Those guys stepped up on the biggest moment,” said Malone, who turned 49 on Tuesday. “You find out a lot about people in these moments. Man, did we pass the character test or what?”
Even more history: The Nuggets are the third team in the U.S. major pro sports to rally from a pair of 3-1 deficits in the same playoffs, joining the 1985 Kansas City Royals and 2003 Minnesota Wild.