Thursday, June 3: Nuggets 126, Trail Blazers 115
The skinny: Up by 14 points in the third quarter, the result appeared inevitable and Portland would force Game 7 against Denver in the NBA Western Conference playoffs.
Well, it didn't happen, as the Nuggets began executing offensively and defensively to close out the quarter, and then dominated the Trail Blazers in the fourth to win Game 6, 126-115 Thursday at Moda Center.
Denver won the series, 4-2, sending the Blazers to their fourth first-round playoff exit in the past five seasons under coach Terry Stotts.
Nikola Jokic had 36 points, eight rebounds and six assists, including 20 points in the third quarter and 27 after halftime. That came after Michael Porter Jr. scored 22 points in the first quarter and 26 in the first half on 10-of-14 shooting (6 of 10 3-pointers) — and then went scoreless in the second half.
Monte Morris added 22 points, including some clutch 3-pointers, and Aaron Gordon hit the clinching 3-pointer with 52.7 seconds left.
Damian Lillard, after exploding for an epic 55 points in Game 5, had 28 points and 13 assists. But, he went 8 of 20 from the floor (3 of 11 3-pointers), and scored only nine points in the second half, going just 1 of 9 from the floor (1 of 6 3-pointers). Perhaps he was tired from playing 52 minutes in his historic Game 5 performance.
Shooting .574 through three quarters to lead 101-98, the Blazers went only 5 of 18 (.278) and missed all five 3-point attempts in the fourth quarter.
The Blazers led by 14 points with four minutes left in the third quarter, but Denver surged, and Morris' 3-pointer ended the third quarter.
The game was tied 108-108 after a Jusuf Nurkic layup, but the Nuggets went on an 11-0 run, finished by Jokic's make. Later, CJ McCollum scored to make it 121-115 with 1:23 left, but JaMychal Green grabbed an offensive rebound on the next Denver possession, and Gordon followed with his 3-pointer to make it 124-115 with 52.7 seconds left. Lillard's final shot was a miss, and Morris added two free throws for the final score.
So, the Blazers lost on their homecourt and saw their season end, outscored by 25 points in the final 16 minutes of the game.
McCollum added 21 points, Norman Powell 17, Carmelo Anthony 14, Nurkic 13 and Robert Covington 11.
The Blazers made 11 of 19 3-pointers in the first half, and only 4 of 17 in the second half. Also, the NBA's leader in fewest turnovers, the Blazers had 16 in Game 6.
Ugly stats: Denver scored 15 points off turnovers, and led in points in the paint (50-38), second-chance points (19-8) and fast-break points (18-10).
Nurkic's night: Nurkic had no fouls in the first half, after fouling out in three of the previous five games. Then, he had four fouls in the third quarter alone, forcing him to the bench and contributing to Denver's run.
Quotable: "We made some big stops and scored the basket," Jokic told TNT after the game, about the Denver rally.
Quotable 2: "We didn't do what was necessary to win this series," Lillard said. "We've got to keep fighting, keep working and keep coming back to battle."
What's next?: The Blazers lost a playoff series against a team missing its starting backcourt — Jamal Murray, Will Barton — and rotation player P.J. Dozier. Murray is a star player, and his absence is why many people predicted Portland would get by the Nuggets.
"Nobody can take the fight out of us," Jokic told TNT. "We can go out there and fight. We're never going to quit."
Nurk leaving?: The questions have started about Stott's job status and which players would be back next year.
A reporter asked Nurkic whether he would be back with the Blazers. "In the right situation, yes," he said, and when a reporter followed up on what the "right situation" was, Nurkic responded, "We'll see. I don't know because this is not it."
Stott's response: Stotts was asked about his job status.
"I'm under contract for two more years," he said. "We'll see what happens. When you lose, everybody's evaluated."
Lillard record: Lillard set the NBA record for 3-pointers in a playoff series with 36, surpassing Donovan Mitchell's 33 from last season.
Lillard honor: Lillard was honored with the NBA's Twyman-Stokes Teammate of the Year award before the game. The criteria is "selfless play, on- and off-court leadership as a mentor and role model to other NBA players, and commitment and dedication to team."
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