Nuggets cruise into West finals, Celtics force Game 7

By Sports Desk May 12, 2023

Nikola Jokic scored 21 of his 32 points in a dominant first half and notched another triple-double as the Denver Nuggets punched their ticket to the Western Conference finals with a 125-100 rout of the Phoenix Suns on Thursday.

Jamal Murray had 26 points and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope added 21 as the Nuggets became the first team in the series to win on the road. They return to the West finals for the second time in four seasons after losing to the Lakers in the Florida bubble during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2019-20.

Denver essentially put the game away with a dominant first quarter, using a 23-2 run to take a 44-26 lead into the second. Caldwell-Pope had nine points during the surge and Jokic added eight. Phoenix never got closer than 15 points for the duration of the second half.

With 10 rebounds and 12 assists, Jokic earned this third triple-double in this series and 11th in his postseason career. Only LeBron James, Magic Johnson and Russell Westbrook have more.

Cameron Payne led the Suns with 31 points on 12-of-16 shooting as Kevin Durant (23 points) and Devin Booker (12) were never factors in a must-win scenario.

Phoenix played without injured starters Deandre Ayton and Chris Paul. Ayton sustained a rib contusion in Tuesday’s Game 5 while Paul has been out the past four games with a strained left groin.

Tatum bounces back late to keep Celtics' season alive

Jayson Tatum erased a dismal shooting night with four late 3-pointers and the Boston Celtics forced Game 7 with a 95-86 win over the Philadelphia 76ers in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

After missing his first six 3-point attempts, Tatum keyed a late 14-3 run by making four of his final five from deep, including two on consecutive possessions to give Boston an 87-83 lead with 3:35 to play. He sank another long-range shot with under two minutes left and his final 3 with 38 seconds remaining put the Celtics up 95-84.

Tatum, who missed 14 of his first 15 shots, finished with 19 points on 5-of-21 shooting with nine rebounds and six assists. He outscored the 76ers alone in the fourth quarter, with 16 points to Philly's 13.

Marcus Smart scored 22 points, Jaylen Brown had 17 and Malcolm Brogdon added 16 to help the Celtics avoid a third straight loss and send the series back to Boston for Game 7 on Sunday.

Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey each scored 26 points for the 76ers, while James Harden struggled again with 13 points on 4-of-16 shooting, missing all six 3-point attempts. Tobias Harris was a non-factor with two points on 1 of 7 from the field in 42 minutes.

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