Denver Nuggets stage huge rally, then hold off Milwaukee Bucks in overtime to clinch huge victory

Gary Harris egged on the crowd wearing his blue blazer and jeans, as the Pepsi Center crowd broke out in chants of “Let’s go Nuggets!” before Paul Millsap flushed an emphatic dunk.

Such a celebration from the home crowd did not seem possible minutes prior. But the insanity that broke out at the Pepsi Center on Easter Sunday ended with a crucial Nuggets victory.

Denver rallied from 18 points down in the fourth quarter to edge Milwaukee 128-125 in overtime in arguably the wildest game of the Nuggets’ season, which helped them gain crucial ground in the Western Conference playoff race and clinch their first winning season in five years.

With the win, the Nuggets (42-35) moved a game ahead of the ninth-place Clippers and within a game of eighth-place New Orleans.

Denver never trailed in overtime but had to hold off a late surge by the Bucks. A Nikola Jokic 3-pointer gave the Nuggets their largest lead of extra time at 121-114 with 1:47 left, but Malik Beasley needed to sink two free throws with 7.1 seconds left. A Jabari Parker heave with 2.1 seconds left was off-target.

Denver climbed all the way back from an 18-point fourth-quarter deficit and seven down in the final two minutes when Jamal Murray — who finished with 27 points and seven assists — stole an inbounds pass, was fouled on a 3-point attempt and sank all three free throws to tie the game at 111 with 2.8 seconds to play in regulation. Then after Eric Bledsoe stepped out of bounds with 2.4 seconds to play, a Jokic turnaround heave rimmed out to force overtime.

The Bucks outscored the Nuggets 38-16 in the third quarter to turn a 63-54 halftime deficit into a double-digit advantage. A pull-up jumper by Bledsoe extended Milwaukee’s advantage to 88-74 with 1:40 left in the third — one that would balloon to 18 points with 7:34 left in the fourth quarter after a Giannis Antetokounmpo jumper made it 102-84.

Parker led the Bucks with 35 points and 10 rebounds off the bench, while Bledsoe added 31 points, five rebounds and six assists before fouling out late in overtime and Antetokounmpo compiled a double-double with 18 points and 12 rebounds before fouling out with 3:43 to play.

Jokic finished with 35 points and 13 rebounds for Denver, while Millsap added 26 points and 13 rebounds.

The Nuggets initially flipped the game in the second quarter, outscoring Milwaukee 41-20. That included a 30-5 run, capped by a Millsap free throw to extend Denver’s lead to 52-41 with 4:19 left before the break.

Denver plays its next two at home, against Indiana on Tuesday and Minnesota on Thursday.

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