Nuggets leave Blazers with crumbs
It's going down to the wire for the Trail Blazers — right down to the final night of the regular season.
Portland missed a chance to clinch the No. 3 seed in the playoffs Monday night, blowing an 11-point third-quarter lead in an 88-82 loss to Denver at Pepsi Center.
Denver, which won its sixth straight game, outscored the Blazers 22-13 in the fourth quarter to keep its playoff hopes alive.
Denver and Minnesota, both 46-35, will go into Wednesday's final night of play tied for eighth place in the Western Conference race.
The Blazers (48-33), whose losing streak increased to four games, could finish anywhere from third to fifth in the West. A victory over Utah on Wednesday night at Moda Center would secure the No. 3 seed.
After Monday play, five West teams are within a game in the loss column — Portland, Utah (47-33), San Antonio (47-34), Oklahoma City (47-34) and New Orleans (47-34). The Blazers own the tiebreaker only over the Thunder.
Portland was 3 for 13 from the field in the fourth quarter and shot .330 for the game, including 7 for 33 from 3-point range.
Damian Lillard scored 25 points and CJ McCollum added 16 but the tandem combined for 13-for-40 shooting, including 4 for 15 from beyond the arc.
Jusuf Nurkic had a big game, collecting 20 points and 19 rebounds against his former team.
Will Barton — also playing against his former team — scored 22 points and Nikola Jokic had his second triple-double in as many games with 15 points, 20 rebounds and 11 assists for the Nuggets.
Nurkic, Lillard and McCollum all scored 11 points and Nurkic had 11 rebounds to stake Portland to a 49-42 halftime lead. Barton had 12 points for the Nuggets.
The Blazers increased the difference to 59-48 early in the third quarter. The Nuggets closed to within 66-65 late in the quarter. Portland took a 69-66 edge into the final period.
Portland's lead was 71-66 when the Nuggets went on a 9-0 run to go on top 75-71. Lillard hit a pair at the line to trim the difference to 75-73 with 6:36 remaining. Nurkic scored on a post-up to tie the score at 75-75 with six minutes to play.
Jokic sank a 3 to give Denver a 78-75 lead with 5:31 to go. Nurkic's hook shot brought Portland to within 78-77 with 4:19 left.
Barton's driving layup increased the Nuggets' lead to 80-77 with 2:52 to go. Jamal Murray's layup made it 82-77 with 1:54 left. Lillard's layup brought Portland within 82-79 with 1:12 remaining.
Nurkic split a pair at the line to make the score 82-80 with 47 seconds left. Murray sank two foul shots to push the Nuggets ahead 84-80 with 30.3 seconds to go.
Two more free throws by Gary Harris made the score 86-80 with 20 seconds on the clock. After Lillard scored on a drive with 12.3 seconds left, Barton wrapped up the Nuggets' victory with two foul shots with 11.3 ticks left.