Denver Nuggets Defeat Blazers, Advance To Second Round
The Denver Nuggets were able to prevent any come-back magic from Damian Lillard to advance to the second round of the NBA Playoffs. The Nuggets were on a mission to close the series and avoid a Game 7. Going to a seventh game is dangerous because that is where Lillard, one of the most clutch players in the league, thrives the most. The Nuggets are familiar with that because two seasons ago, the Portland Trail Blazers beat them in Game 7.
“Nobody is trying to see Damian Lillard, one of the most clutch players ever, in a Game 7,” Michael Porter Jr. said.
The Nuggets started the game with an impressive performance from Porter Jr. He provided one of the most impressive scoring outbursts, scoring 22 points in the first quarter. Porter drained six three-pointers to get his 22 points. Porter’s scoring helped keep the Nuggets close, as Portland led at the end of the first 33-29.
The Blazers were led by Lillard, who carried the offensive load for the team throughout the series. Lillard had 28 points and 13 assists in the game. CJ McCollum added 21 points, and Norman Powell had 17 points. Portland led throughout the game, and it seemed like there would be a Game 7, but that changed in the fourth quarter.
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Nuggets star Nikola Jokic contributed with 36 points to eliminate the Trail Blazers. Jokic scored 20 of his 36 points in the third quarter. The All-Star was able to spark a comeback in the second half.
“The first quarter, I was not even that aggressive. I didn’t want to force it,” Jokic said. “Like why [try] to force when I have a really good scorer going? So why would I maybe make him cold or whatever, make him angry, so, I can sacrifice myself a couple of minutes or a quarter?”
“That’s why he’s the clear-cut MVP,” Nuggets head coach Michael Malone said of Jokic. “Because you can take anybody away from our team, if we have Nikola, you could put me, Wes Unseld, Ryan Bowen, Charles Klask, whoever you want out there, we’re going to find a way to compete because that’s how great he is.”
The Nuggets’ biggest moment came in the fourth quarter. The team was able to stifle Portland’s offense by holding them to just 14 points. Denver’s defense allowed them to outscore the Trail Blazers and take the lead to finally close out Portland.
Lillard had nothing but respect for Jokic after the game.
“He’s everything for them,” Lillard said of Jokic. “I think if it was any year a guy like him, what he does for that team, could lead his team to a championship, it would be this year because of how open it is. There’s no favorite. In my eyes, at least, I feel like anybody can get beat, and anybody can go get it done. That’s why it’s even more disappointing for me because I felt like if there’s any year you can shoulder the load and go get one, it was this one. I definitely think he’s capable of it.”
“I love our team. I love every player in that locker room, one through seventeen,” Malone said. “We continue to find ways to win. Last year, this year, people don’t realize what we’re missing right now with injuries, so I couldn’t be more proud of a group of players that I truly love coaching every single day.”
The Nuggets advance to the second round for a third consecutive season. Denver will prepare for a playoff series with the Suns.
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