NBA: Nuggets fend off Warriors to avoid sweep

Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (R) goes to the basket while drawing a foul by Golden State Warriors center Kevon Looney (L) during the first half of the first round NBA Western Conference playoffs game two between the Denver Nuggets and the Golden State Warriors at Chase Center in San Francisco, California, USA, 18 April 2022.  John Mabanglo, EPA-EFE.
Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (R) goes to the basket while drawing a foul by Golden State Warriors center Kevon Looney (L) during the first half of the first round NBA Western Conference playoffs game two between the Denver Nuggets and the Golden State Warriors at Chase Center in San Francisco, California, USA, 18 April 2022.  John Mabanglo, EPA-EFE.

WASHINGTON — Nikola Jokic scored 37 points and the Denver Nuggets avoided being swept out of the NBA playoffs on Sunday, holding off the Golden State Warriors 126-121.

The 27-year-old Serbian big man, last season’s NBA Most Valuable Player, also delivered eight rebounds and six assists as the Nuggets pulled within 3-1 in their best-of-seven first round series to force a fifth game on Wednesday at San Francisco.

“We put up the fight,” Jokic said. “We didn’t want to get swept. We have more pride in ourselves.”

After Stephen Curry nailed a long jumper to give Golden State a 121-119 lead with 1:21 to play, Jokic made a layup, Monte Morris sank a go-ahead jumper with 33 seconds remaining and after a steal by Austin Rivers, Jokic fired a pass to Will Barton for the deciding corner 3-pointer with 8.3 seconds remaining.

“I was just trying to attack and I just saw the pass in the corner,” said Jokic.

No team in NBA history has overcome a 3-0 deficit to win a playoff series, but Jokic says the Nuggets have the spirit to make history.

“That’s what we have, just fight,” he said. “We’ve really got our second wind so why not?”

Morris had 24 points and Aaron Gordon added 21 for Denver.

Curry had 33 off the bench to lead Golden State while Thompson had 32 in his first 30-point playoff game since the 2019 NBA Finals.

A Curry layup, Andrew Wiggins dunk and Thompson jumper pulled the Warriors within 115-112 with 3:32 remaining. Jokic answered with a baseline jumper but Curry made two free throws and Wiggins jammed in a dunk with 2:28 to play to pull Golden State within 117-116.

Gordon sank two free throws to boost Denver’s lead but Curry sank a driving layup and added a free throw to lift the Warriors level at 119-119 with 1:47 remaining, setting up the thrilling finish.

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