Nuggets Avoid NBA Sweep Against Thunder; Spurs Lose, Trail Grizzlies 3-1

The Denver Nuggets defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder to avoid being swept out of the National Basketball Association playoffs. The top-seeded San Antonio Spurs moved to the verge of elimination with a third loss to the Memphis Grizzlies.

The Nuggets beat the Thunder 104-101 last night at the Pepsi Center in Denver and now trail three games to one in their best-of-seven series. Denver is the third team to avoid a series sweep when trailing 3-0 this postseason, joining the Indiana Pacers against Chicago and the Philadelphia 76ers against Miami.

“This is big, now we just want to keep building on it,” said Ty Lawson, who scored 27 points to lead the Nuggets.

The Boston Celtics are the only NBA team to complete a four-game sweep in the first round of the playoffs this year, defeating the New York Knicks in all their games.

The Spurs, who had the NBA’s best record during the regular season and are the top seed in the Western Conference, were routed 104-86 in Memphis. San Antonio trails 3-1 in the series and could join the 2006-07 Dallas Mavericks as the only No. 1 seeds to be eliminated by an eighth seed since the NBA’s opening round expanded to a best-of-seven format in 2003.

The Mavericks defeated the Portland Trail Blazers 93-82 in yesterday’s other game to take a 3-2 lead in their Western Conference playoff series.

Dirk Nowitzki scored 25 points to lead the third-seeded Mavericks, who head to Portland for Game 6 on April 28. The home team has won all five games in the series so far.

Lakers-Hornets

The defending champion Los Angeles Lakers host the New Orleans Hornets in the last of today’s three playoff games. Their Western Conference series is tied 2-2.

In the East, the top-seeded Chicago Bulls host the Pacers up three games to one, while the Atlanta Hawks are in Orlando with a 3-1 series lead.

The Nuggets used an 11-0 scoring run spanning the third and fourth quarters last night to erase a 69-67 deficit and take the lead for good against the Thunder.

Danilo Gallinari added 18 points for Denver, which built a 10-point lead and then withstood a late rally by the Thunder.

Kevin Durant scored 31 points to lead Oklahoma City and Russell Westbrook chipped in with 30, although he missed two 3- pointers in the final 29 seconds that could have tied or put the Thunder ahead.

The Spurs are in jeopardy of failing to get past the first round for the second time in 11 years.

‘One More Time’

The Grizzlies used a 14-0 third-quarter scoring run to pull away from San Antonio, which won NBA championships in 2003, 2005 and 2007. Mike Conley had 15 points for Memphis, which had nine players score at least eight points.

“We’re a team that doesn’t get a lot of attention because of the market, but we’ve been playing great basketball,” Conley, who added seven assists, said in a televised interview. “We’re able to beat good teams like San Antonio and we just have to do it one more time.”

Memphis, which hadn’t won a playoff game before this postseason, will look to close out the series with a Game 5 win in San Antonio tomorrow.

To contact the reporter on this story: Erik Matuszewski in New York at matuszewski@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Sillup at msillup@bloomberg.net

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