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Clippers forward Montrezl Harrell is surrounded by the Nuggets’ Michael Porter Jr., Nikola Jokic and Jerami Grant during Friday’s Game 5 of the Western Conference second round at The Field House at the ESPN Wide World Of Sports Complex in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
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The Denver Nuggets have some cockroach in them. You better make sure they’re buried or they’ll come back to haunt you.

Left for dead with their season on the brink, the Nuggets refused to quit Friday night. After trailing by as many as 16, the Nuggets ripped off a stirring second-half comeback that fought off elimination for the fourth time this postseason.

Denver’s 111-105 win over the Clippers guaranteed a Game 6 on Sunday in the Western Conference semifinals.

“I know there’s not a lot of belief (outside our locker room),” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “But we believe in ourselves.”

After Paul Millsap’s season-saving third quarter made the margin manageable, Nikola Jokic (22 points, 14 rebounds) and Jamal Murray seized the fourth quarter.

First a screen freed up Murray at the top of the key, creating some airspace he’s rarely enjoyed throughout a grueling series. Murray buried the 3-pointer, perhaps serving as an ember for the fire to come.

“Most of the night, I got where I wanted,” Murray said, his 26 points on 25 field goals an indication of the offensive slog he faced on nearly every possession.

Then a momentum-tilting alley-oop from Michael Porter Jr. to Mason Plumlee cut the deficit to 82-80. More importantly, it revealed a dangerous unselfish quality that tends to elevate the Nuggets to another gear. The loose, selfless play trickled into the defensive end, where the Nuggets scrapped and made the Clippers work for everything.

It was more or less what L.A. had done to the Nuggets the prior two games.

Soon, Jokic and Murray were trading 3-point daggers and unfiltered roars, alternating which superstar threw the next debilitating punch. By the time their individual fireworks were over, the Nuggets had peeled off a 14-2 run that gave Denver a six-point cushion with under six minutes left. By the end, Jokic and Murray had 20 of the team’s 38 points in the fourth, while the Clippers managed just 25 total.

“Nikola started finding his rhythm, Jamal found his rhythm, Michael Porter made some big plays for us,” Malone said. “But it always starts with our defense.”

Not that Kawhi Leonard or Paul George was going to concede with a spot in the Western Conference Finals on the line. Both stars kept charging, forcing their relentless offense on Denver’s wings. The Clippers drew to within 102-100 with 1:58 left before Porter drained a 3-pointer that must’ve lifted the weight of the world off him. All seven of Porter’s points came in the fourth quarter, but it was a huge block followed by a clutch rebound that may ultimately engender more trust than his buckets.

“Everybody knows it wasn’t the best shot selection, but something made me shoot it, so I shot it,” said Porter, beaming after the game.

Millsap almost single-handedly kept the Nuggets afloat in the third quarter as the Clippers threatened, multiple times, to pull away. Millsap scored 14 of his 17 points, draining one 3-pointer to complement his steady marches to the free-throw line. Denver trailed by as many as 15 just minutes into the second half before clawing its way back and sawing the margin to just 80-73 heading into the fourth.

“‘Sap won us that game,” Porter said, referring to the Nuggets’ aging power forward. “We were down and he kept clawing away.”

The Nuggets also showed some momentary resistance when Millsap and Marcus Morris got tangled up fighting for a rebound late in the second quarter.

Their effort – and perhaps their pride – was indicative of the same outfit that fought back from a 3-1 deficit against Utah.

Malone said his team “briefly” discussed Porter’s critical postgame comments following Game 4 and reminded the rookie how imperative it is to keep those feelings in-house.

“Obviously during the playoffs, the last thing you want is any type of distraction, and if those frustrations are there for Michael or for anybody, it is much better to keep those conversations internal, in the locker room and amongst ourselves,” Malone said.

It wasn’t immediately clear how those critical comments landed among Porter’s teammates.

The Nuggets took a day off Thursday to decompress and process their second 3-1 deficit in the playoffs. After a day to think about it, Malone briefly re-visited Game 4 and diagnosed what needed to change.

“How we can help ourselves is, if the defense stays where it has been, get out and run, attack, get to the rim, get to the paint, put pressure on them,” Malone said. “Don’t stand, make sure the ball is moving, make sure bodies are moving. Have to set better screens.

“I understand – I don’t listen to it, but I hear that people back home are criticizing Jamal because of his play, which I think is just outlandish,” Malone continued. “Please consider who is guarding him and how they’re guarding him.”

On Friday, the waves of Clippers defenders didn’t matter. Murray and the Nuggets brought a will they couldn’t stifle.

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