Basketball / NBA

Nuggets hold off Spurs in Game 7

AP

Time was winding down and the San Antonio Spurs couldn’t hear their coach screaming for someone to foul over all the noise.

That’s one for the Denver crowd.

The Nuggets also are making some noise.

Nikola Jokic had another triple-double, Jamal Murray hit a clutch floater with 36.8 seconds remaining and the Nuggets held off the Spurs 90-86 in Game 7 on Saturday night to advance in the postseason for the first time in a decade.

“I love the grit, the resiliency, the toughness we played with tonight,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “Even late when they made their run . . . we never lost our composure.”

In a matchup between a Denver team with the youngest playoff roster in the West and the savvy Spurs, the second-seeded Nuggets built a 17-point lead in the third quarter only to see it whittled down to two with 52 seconds remaining.

Jokic finished with 21 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists, with no pass bigger than the one to set up Murray’s floater. DeMar DeRozan had a chance to slice into the deficit but was blocked by Torrey Craig.

With time running out, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich yelled and yelled for someone to commit a foul, just to prolong the game. The roar was too loud. The Nuggets were able to essentially run out the time and begin their celebration.

“After the game you’re thinking, ‘Why didn’t they foul?’ ” Craig said.

Easy: It was just too loud. Denver went an NBA-best 34-7 at home in the regular season and rode the energy of the packed house all the way to the end.

“I missed it,” LaMarcus Aldridge said of Popovich calling a foul. “That’s it.”

Since making the Western Conference finals in 2009, the Nuggets have bowed out in the first round on four occasions. This was their first playoff appearance in six seasons.

Denver will host third-seeded Portland in a second-round series that begins Monday.

Raptors 108, 76ers 95

In Toronto, Kawhi Leonard wasn’t interested in putting up a career-high point total against Philadelphia. Even as history beckoned, the Raptors’ understated star was hoping he could take a seat on the bench.

Leonard scored a career playoff-high 45 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, Pascal Siakam added 29 points and Toronto won Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinal series.

Leonard’s previous postseason high was 43, with San Antonio against Memphis on April 22, 2017. He matched that by making a pair of free throws with 4:45 remaining, then topped it by draining a jump shot on the Raptors’ next possession.

Although he appeared focused on reaching the mark, the opposite was actually true.

“I was trying to get out of the game before it got to that point,” Leonard said. “We were up 20 points with probably like five minutes left and I was already looking at the bench, trying to get them to take me out of the game.”

Leonard matched his career-best scoring total for any game, set Jan. 1 against Utah.