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Nuggets crash LA celebration, Heat block Boston

Just about everyone had LA vs. LA written in for the NBA’s western conference finals.

Then along came the resilient Denver Nuggets, who crashed the party by advancing to the conference finals for the first time since 2009.

Behind 40 points from Jamal Murray and a 16 points, 13 assists and 22 rebounds triple-double from Nikola Jokic, Denver overwhelmed the Los Angeles Clippers 104-89 when it mattered most.

After a quick celebration on Tuesday – of the win and coach Michael Malone’s 49th birthday – the Nuggets will be ready to get back to business against LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers starting on Friday in Game 1.

But this has been no ordinary play-off road for Denver, who trailed the Utah Jazz 3-1 in the first round and then went 3-1 down to the Clippers.

They made history by becoming the first NBA team to rally from a 3-1 series deficit twice in the same post-season.

As expected, Denver are underdogs against the Lakers but Murray and his teammates are used to it.

“Everybody counts us out. It’s fun to silence everybody,” he said.

“We love it.”

The Nuggets are 6-0 in elimination games in these playoffs with All-Star centre Jokic and point-guard Murray the leading lights.

“It’s just fun, the journey,” Jokic said.

“This is an interesting team. We don’t have many superstars.”

Actually, they have two burgeoning stars in Jokic and Murray.

Denver certainly quieted the noise around the Clippers, who hoped the additions of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George would lead them to their first-ever conference finals – and beyond.

But LA’s stars fell flat on Tuesday with neither scoring in the final quarter as Leonard finished with 14 points for the game and George 10.

“It hurts. It hurts. But we move on,” George said.

In game one of the eastern conference finals, Boston Celtics star Jayson Tatum thought he had a dunk to tie the scores late in overtime.

Bam Adebayo had other ideas and in the biggest moment of his young NBA career the Miami Heat big man more than rose to the occasion with a huge block.

Jimmy Butler’s three-point play with 12 seconds left may have put Miami ahead for good as they struck first with a 117-114 win.

But it was Adebayo’s rejection that grabbed the spotlight.

“When you have great competition like this, you just have to make plays that you can’t even really explain,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.

“And that was Bam tonight.”

Trailing by double-dights early and again in the final quarter of regualtion time, the Heat refused to go away and improved to an NBA-best 9-1 so far in these playoffs.

“Bam. That seals the game for us,” Butler said of Adebayo’s defensive play.

“I love how he does any and everything that you ask him to do. I really do…”

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