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Jamal Murray ignites Nuggets past Jazz in OT as NBA bubble playoffs begin

Jamal Murray showed up for his post-game Zoom call wearing a shirt featuring the image of boxing great Muhammad Ali.

Almost fitting, given the Denver Nuggets withstood blow after blow from Donovan Mitchell before landing the knockout punch.

Murray scored 10 of his 36 points in overtime on a day Mitchell erupted for a Jazz playoff-record 57 points and the Nuggets beat Utah 135-125 on Monday in Game 1 of their first-round series.

“It was just lights, camera, action and come on we’re trying to get this win,” the Canadian guard from Kitchener, Ont., explained.

Nikola Jokic finished with 29 points and 10 rebounds for Denver. He had a chance to win it in regulation at the buzzer, but his right-handed hook shot over Utah’s Rudy Gobert was off the mark. Murray took over in the extra period, sealing the game on a 3-pointer with 46.8 seconds remaining.

Mitchell was the star of the show in the absence of Mike Conley, who left the NBA bubble to return to Ohio for the birth of his son. Mitchell’s scoring spree surpassed the Jazz mark of 50 by Karl Malone on April 22, 2000, against Seattle.

Mitchell was 19 of 33 from the floor and 13 of 13 from the free-throw line. He hit six 3-pointers in 43 minutes, 14 seconds of work. He also had seven assists and nine rebounds.

“The biggest thing was just to try to make the right plays,” the 23-year-old said.

Mitchell’s offensive explosion was the third-most points scored in an NBA playoff game, trailing only Michael Jordan (63) and Elgin Baylor (61), according to Basketball Reference.

For all his offensive handiwork, it was a play near the end of the game that Mitchell lamented. With the Jazz leading 109-105 and 1:46 remaining in regulation, Mitchell was called for an 8-second violation as he dribbled the ball up the floor. Murray promptly responded with a 3-pointer to get Denver right back into the game.

“That’s my fault. As a leader and as a point guard at that time, that’s terrible on my part,” Mitchell said. “That really changed the entire game, that sequence right there.

“At the end of the day, we’re not overreacting. It’s one game.”

It was no surprise this game went down to the wire. Denver went 3-0 against Utah during the regular and restarted season but won by a combined margin of just 11 points, including a 134-132 double-overtime thriller on Aug 8.

Murray and Mitchell stood out in this game — both for their play and their shoes. Wearing neon green shoes, Murray had 20 points in the fourth quarter and overtime. Donning highlighter yellow sneakers, Mitchell had 22 points in the fourth and 17 in the second.

And yes, they were chatting in a friendly trash-talk way.

“I’m smiling because those are the games you want to be in,” Murray said. “Those are the games that are the most fun and most competitive.”

Celtics clip short-handed 76ers

Boston’s Jayson Tatum, right, and Philadelphia’s Tobias Harris battle for the ball during the second half of the Celtics’ 109-101 win over the 76ers in Game 1 of their first-round series on Monday. (Ashley Landis/Pool, The Associated Press)

Jayson Tatum had career playoff highs of 32 points and 13 rebounds, and the Boston Celtics beat the Philadelphia 76ers 109-101 on Monday in Game 1 of their first-round Eastern Conference playoff series.

Jaylen Brown scored 15 of his 29 points in the fourth quarter and Kemba Walker added 19 points for the Celtics.

Joel Embiid had 26 points and 16 rebounds and Josh Richardson and Alec Burks each added 18 points for the 76ers. Philadelphia nearly pulled off the win without All-Star guard Ben Simmons, who is out indefinitely after left knee surgery.

Tatum scored 15 points in the second quarter to give the Celtics a 55-49 lead at halftime. The 76ers shot 56 per cent in the first half, but the Celtics scored 16 points off the 76ers 13 turnovers.

The 76ers went on a 15-0 run late in the third quarter to take an 81-75 lead, and Philadelphia led 85-81 heading into the fourth.

The Celtics went on a 9-0 run that included seven points by Brown to take a 92-86 lead, and Boston pushed the lead to 10 before the 76ers made a final push. Philadelphia cut Boston’s lead to 103-100 on a 3-pointer by Josh Richardson with 59 seconds remaining, but the Celtics made 6 of 6 free throws in the final minute.

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