DENVER (AP) – Four NHL teams have overcome 3-0 deficits in a best-of-seven playoff series, including the 1942 Stanley Cup champion Toronto Maple Leafs. The Boston Red Sox pulled off MLB’s only such comeback against the New York Yankees in 2004.

The Denver Nuggets are the 143rd NBA team to go down 3-0 in a best-of-seven playoff series and nobody’s ever overcome such a daunting deficit to win four straight.

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The Nuggets say their only aim is to send the series back to Phoenix with a win in Game 4 Sunday night in Denver.

DENVER, CO – JUNE 11: Nikola Jokic #15 of the Denver Nuggets shoots under coverage by Deandre Ayton #22 of the Phoenix Suns in Game Three of the Western Conference second-round playoff series at Ball Arena on June 11, 2021 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

“The last thing I want to see is the Phoenix Suns pushing a broom across our home court,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said Friday night after Denver’s 116-102 loss to the Suns.

Malone has said all along the Nuggets could show growth this season after losing a year ago to the Lakers in the Western Conference finals.

“We have had a tremendous season, tremendous. I said going into this year you can’t judge a season by the end result. … But the one thing I don’t want is for us just to go out quietly into that good night,” Malone said. “I hope we show some real fight and resolve and force this series to go back to Phoenix for Game 5.”

If not, Nikola Jokic will become the first MVP to get swept in a playoff series since the league adopted the best-of-seven format for all rounds beginning in 2003.

“We just need to go out there and fight and give everything we’ve got,” Jokic said.

Only three MVPs (Steph Curry in 2015, LeBron James in 2012 and ‘13 and Tim Duncan in 2003) have won it all since 2003 when it’s taken 16 playoff victories to raise the Larry O’Brien NBA Championship Trophy.

DENVER, CO – JUNE 11: Aaron Gordon #50 of the Denver Nuggets drives to the hoop with a layup against Jae Crowder #99 of the Phoenix Suns in Game Three of the Western Conference second-round playoff series at Ball Arena on June 11, 2021 in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

Curry came up just short again in 2016 when James led the Cavaliers to a Game 7 win in the NBA Finals. Since then, MVPs are just 31-24 in the playoffs with none of them even reaching the Finals.

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That includes two MVPs who exited in the first round: Russell Westbrook in 2017 and Dirk Nowitzki in 2007.

SUNS AT NUGGETS

Game 4, 8 p.m. EDT, TNT

NEED TO KNOW: The Suns have won six straight games since falling behind the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers 2-1 in the opening round. Phoenix point guard Chris Paul has bounced back from his ailing shoulder that forced head coach Monty Williams to sit him in the fourth quarter twice against the Lakers. In the fourth quarters against the Nuggets, Paul is 12 for 13 from the floor, including 4 for 4 on 3-pointers with eight assists and no turnovers. In Game 3, he had 27 points to go with Devin Booker’s 28.

KEEP AN EYE ON: Nuggets guard Monte Morris, who responded to a challenge from Malone to be more of a factor in Game 3 after two mediocre performances in Phoenix. He scored 21 points in 30 minutes off the bench and was the only Denver player to shoot 50% or better (8 for 12) besides Zeke Nnaji (1 for 1).

INJURY WATCH: In Game 3, Nuggets’ Will Barton played 28 minutes and scored 14 points in his second game back from a serious hamstring injury. P.J. Dozier (adductor) is still out. The Nuggets rallied around fallen teammate Jamal Murray, who tore his left ACL on April 12, going 13-5 down the stretch and beating the Trail Blazers in five games in the opening round. But they seem to have hit the wall in this round, showing how much they really miss their dynamic scorer who twice pumped in 50 points in the bubble in last year’s playoff run.

PRESSURE IS ON: Michael Porter Jr., who hasn’t been the same since tweaking his surgically repaired back just before halftime of the series opener. MPJ went 5 for 13 from the field in Game 3 for 15 points. He’s shooting 36% from the floor and 38% on 3s in this series after marks of 54.2 and 44.5 in his breakout regular season.

By ARNIE STAPLETON

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