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NBA Playoffs: Denver Nuggets push Los Angeles Lakers towards elimination; Philadelphia 76ers beat New York Knicks

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Aaron Gordon scored 29 points and grabbed 15 rebounds and two-time NBA Most Valuable Player Nikola Jokic added 24 points, another 15 boards and nine assists for the Nuggets, who took a 3-0 stranglehold on the best-of-seven Western Conference first-round series.
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The Denver Nuggets rallied to push LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers to the brink of elimination from the NBA playoffs on Thursday as the Philadelphia 76ers, fueled by 50 points from Joel Embiid, clawed back a win against the Knicks. The defending champion Nuggets erased a 10-point first-quarter deficit to beat the Lakers 112-105 in Los Angeles.

Aaron Gordon scored 29 points and grabbed 15 rebounds and two-time NBA Most Valuable Player Nikola Jokic added 24 points, another 15 boards and nine assists for the Nuggets, who took a 3-0 stranglehold on the best-of-seven Western Conference first-round series.

No NBA team has rallied from an 0-3 deficit to win a best-of-seven playoff series. “We’ve got to figure out how to get one (win) on Saturday to stay alive,” Lakers coach Darvin Ham said.

But the Nuggets have now won 11 straight games against the Lakers, including their sweep in last season’s Western Conference finals.

“I don’t think it is necessarily about our opponent,” Gordon said. “I think it’s about what we do and who we have as our guys in our locker room.

“We just focus on being great each and every night and let the results take care of itself.”

Down by four at halftime, the Nuggets pulled away relentlessly in the third quarter and were never really challenged in the fourth.

“It’s a make or miss league,” Ham said. “When you can’t get a bucket, they’re scoring, they’re on a run, it’s tough.”

Anthony Davis scored 33 points and pulled down 15 rebounds and James scored 26 points with six rebounds and nine assists. But D’Angelo Russell went scoreless, missing all seven of his shot attempts, and Davis had just three points in the final period.

Jamal Murray, who made the buzzer-beating game-winner in the Nuggets’ crushing 101-99 victory on Monday, added 22 points and nine assists and Michael Porter Jr. chipped in 20 points and 10 rebounds for Denver.

Both the 76ers and the Orlando Magic avoided falling 0-3 down, Philadelphia with a spectacular offensive display from reigning NBA MVP Embiid in a 125-114 victory over the Knicks.

The Magic routed the Cleveland Cavaliers 121-83 to cut their series deficit to 2-1.

Embiid on fire

After the 76ers dropped two games at Madison Square Garden, Embiid defiantly insisted they were the “better team” and would right the ship at home.

He made sure they did, connecting on 13 of 19 shots including five of seven from three-point range. He scored 18 points in the third quarter, when the Sixers erased a three-point halftime deficit and pushed their lead to 13 going into the fourth.

New York Knicks lead 2-1 against Philadelphia 76ers in the NBA Playoffs despite their defeat on Thursday. AP

After his big night, Embiid revealed he was playing with Bell’s palsy, a condition that causes muscle weakness in one side of the face.

“Yes, it’s pretty annoying,” Embiid said of the condition, which usually resolves in a matter of weeks or months. “My left side of my face, my mouth and my eye. It’s been tough. But I’m not a quitter.”

Embiid added eight rebounds, four assists and a blocked shot and was assessed a flagrant foul for pulling Mitchell Robinson to the court by the ankle in the first quarter – moments after Embiid had been sent crashing by Knicks forward OG Anunoby.

Embiid said he was just trying to make sure Robinson didn’t fall on him, but Robinson left the arena after the game wearing a protective walking boot.

Jalen Brunson led the Knicks with 39 points and 13 assists. Josh Hart scored 20 points but game two hero Donte DiVincenzo had just five and the 76ers will have a chance to level the series on Sunday.

In Orlando, Paolo Banchero scored 31 points and grabbed 14 rebounds to lead the Magic, who handed the Cavs their most lopsided playoff defeat ever.

“I just wanted to come out and be aggressive,” Banchero said. “Going down 3-0 is a lot different than being down 2-1. So (I) knew we had to get this game – and we’ve got to do it again on Saturday.”

Jarrett Allen led the Cavs with 15 points and Donovan Mitchell added 13, but Cleveland connected on just 39 percent of their shots from the field.

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