Nuggets catch Blazers at the end
DENVER — The Trail Blazers had no answer for Jamal Murray on Monday night at Pepsi Center, and the Denver Nuggets pulled out a very important victory.
The second-year point guard from Kentucky went for a career-high 38 points to lift the Nuggets past Portland, 104-101.
Former Blazers guard Will Barton made four straight free throws in the final 7.9 seconds for Denver (24-23), which had lost two in a row and six of its last eight outings.
The Nuggets pulled within a game the Blazers (25-22), who fell to seventh place in the NBA Western Conference. Denver, which trailed by seven points with five minutes remaining, outscored the Blazers 18-8 the rest of the way.
Damian Lillard collected 25 points and eight rebounds and Jusuf Nurkic contributed 19 points and 12 rebounds for Portland, which saw the end to a three-game win streak.
It was Nurkic's first return to Denver since the trade that sent him to Portland in a deal that brought the Nuggets center Mason Plumlee last February.
Center Nikola Jokic had 16 points, 12 rebounds and five assists, though he was only 5 for 17 from the field. Plumlee scored 11 points on 5-for-7 shooting to go with seven rebounds and five assists.
Neither team led by double digits in a game that featured 18 lead changes and 21 ties.
Trailing by four points at halftime, Denver scored the first eight points of the third quarter to go ahead 53-49. The Blazers held a 78-76 edge heading into the final period.
The teams were tied at 80-80 when Portland went on a 13-6 run to go ahead 93-86 with five minutes left.
Plumlee's dunk got Denver to within 93-90 with 3:59 to play.
Nurkic scored on a layup to push Portland's lead to 95-90 with 3:48 left. Barton sank two at the line to cut it to 95-92 with 3:25 to go, and Murray's 3-pointer tied the score at 95-95 with 2:02 remaining.
Plumlee's layup gave Denver a 97-95 lead with 1:35 remaining. CJ McCollum hit two free throws to tie it at 97-97 with 1:08 left.
Lillard's runner pushed the Blazers back in front 99-97 with 41.7 seconds to go.
Murray's three-point play pulled Denver ahead 100-99 with 33.6 seconds to play.
Barton's two foul shots with 7.9 seconds remaining upped the Nuggets' advantage to 102-99 with 7.9 seconds on the clock.
Nurkic dunked with 2.6 seconds to go to trim the difference to 102-101, but Barton answered with a pair of free throws with 1.8 ticks left.
The Blazers had no timeouts remaining and couldn't get off a 3-point attempt to force overtime.