Denver — Jamal Murray missed his first eight shots before a scorching fourth quarter in which he scored 21 of his 24 points, leading the Denver Nuggets past the San Antonio Spurs 114-105 on Tuesday night and knotting their playoff series at a game apiece.
The Nuggets were in danger of losing a second straight game at the Pepsi Center after posting the NBA’s best home record (34-7) during the regular season. They trailed 78-59 late in the third quarter before closing the game on a 55-27 run.
“We gave up 38 points (actually, 39) in the fourth quarter. End of story,” fumed Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, who drew a technical foul during the Nuggets’ comeback.
Nuggets coach Michael Malone said he never considered benching Murray because he didn’t want to crush his confidence. He said he took him aside at halftime and told him to take a deep breath and trust his shots would start falling.
“Never once did I think about pulling him from the lineup,” Malone said.
Good thing, too, because Murray, the goat in Game 1 after missing an open jumper and turning the ball over in the closing seconds, might have salvaged the Nuggets’ season while going 8 for 9 in the fourth quarter.
The series shifts to San Antonio, where the Nuggets haven’t won since 2012, for Game 3 on Thursday night.
Paul Millsap added 20 points for Denver and Nikola Jokic just missed his second triple-double of the series, scoring 21 points, pulling down 13 rebounds and dishing out eight assists.
The Spurs got 31 points from DeMar DeRozan, 24 from LaMarcus Aldridge and 17 from Derrick White.
San Antonio led 78-59 with 4½ minutes left in the third quarter before the Nuggets started their comeback, cutting it to seven points entering the fourth quarter.
They tied it at 95 on Murray’s jumper midway through the period, then took their first lead since the first quarter when Murray sank two free throws with 4:50 remaining for a 99-97 lead.
(At) Toronto 111, Orlando 82: Kawhi Leonard scored 37 points, Kyle Lowry bounced back from a scoreless playoff opener with 22 and the Toronto Raptors evened their Eastern Conference first-round series at one win each.
Pascal Siakam had 19 points and 10 rebounds for the Raptors, who never trailed and led by as many as 34.
Game 3 is Friday night in Orlando.
Despite playing in foul trouble for much of the night, Leonard finished with a career playoff-high 15 field goals. He made his first nine attempts from inside the arc before missing a layup. He shot 15 for 22 before leaving to a standing ovation with 4:46 remaining and Toronto ahead 104-73.
Lowry, who missed all seven attempts in Game 1, shot 8 for 13 and added seven assists.
Aaron Gordon scored 20 points, Terrence Ross had 15 and Evan Fournier 10 for the Magic, who won Saturday’s Game 1 104-101 on a tiebreaking 3 by D.J. Augustin with 4.2 seconds to go.
(At) Portland 114, Oklahoma City 94: CJ McCollum scored 33 points as the Trail Blazers took a 2-0 lead in the series.
Tense at times with plenty of jawing back-and-forth between the teams, the series now heads to Oklahoma City for Game 3 on Friday.
"I love it, that's what I live for," said McCollum, who missed 10 games late in the regular season because of a knee injury. "Just like playing on the playground."
Damian Lillard added 29 points for the third-seeded Blazers, who opened a playoff series with two wins for the first time since the 2014 playoffs, when they beat Houston in six games.
Russell Westbrook, who had his ninth career postseason triple-double in Oklahoma City's Game 1 loss, finished with 14 points, nine rebounds and 11 assists. He was pulled with 3:31 with most of his fellow starters after Portland built a 112-91 lead.
Westbrook was just 5 of 20 from the field, including 1 for 6 on 3-point attempts. Collectively, the Thunder were 5 of 28 from the perimeter.