In a decisive Game 5, the Denver Nuggets captured a monumental 124-98 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers.
With the win, Denver now holds a 3-2 advantage over Portland in the Western Conference Semifinals. The Nuggets now need just one more victory in their remaining two games against Portland to make their first Western Conference Finals since 2009.
In a series that has been tightly contested each and every game, it was imperative that Denver got off to a strong start to set the tone Tuesday night. That is exactly what they did as the Nuggets opened the game on a 9-2 run, while Portland started 0-of-5 shooting from the field. The Trail Blazers quickly found their rhythm offensively as they made five of their next seven shots, but Denver still held a 16-13 lead with 5:48 left in the first quarter.
Denver would built on their lead as the quarter continued, eventually grabbing a 31-25 lead after 12 minutes of play. For the Nuggets, they were led by a big first quarter from Paul Millsap as he scored 12 points on 5-of-6 shooting from the field. Denver was in some early foul trouble though as Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic each had two fouls through one quarter of play, which meant plenty off action for Monte Morris, Mason Plumlee, and Millsap.
It also meant plenty of minutes for Will Barton, who continued his tremendous series with two three-pointers just minutes upon checking in. Barton’s two threes allowed Denver to bump their lead up to 14 points as the Nuggets bench unit was dominating Portland’s. Just like it has been all series though, the Trail Blazers quickly answered with a 6-0 run to cut Denver’s lead back down to single digits.
The Nuggets lead at that point of the game was eight points, which is the same advantage they held till the around the 2:11 mark, which is when Jamal Murray caught fire. Murray scored six points in a span of one minute — including some unreal layups — as Denver’s lead was all of a sudden back up to 17 points. The Nuggets ended up taking a 65-47 lead into the halftime locker room as they dominated the first 24 minutes of play.
Millsap had an unbelievable first half as he scored 19 points on 7-of-10 shooting from the field to go along with five rebounds. Jokic recorded a first half double-double of 10 points, 10 rebounds, and three assists as he was stellar in the post. Denver also got big first half’s from Murray with 11 points and Gary Harris, who was also in double-figures with 10 points.
All Denver needed was a quick start to the third quarter to vanish any chance of a Portland comeback, which is exactly what they did. The Nuggets came out of the halftime locker room on fire, which led to them outscoring the Trail Blazers 12-8 in the first five minutes of the quarter. At this point of the game, Denver’s lead was up to 77-55 as they continued to assert their dominance on both ends of the floor.
That only continued as Portland had no answer of how to slow down the Nuggets and Denver was not letting their foot off the gas. Murray put down a thunderous dunk with 4:10 left in the third quarter as Denver was sitting at a comfortable 85-60 lead. That dunk would end up being the proverbial nail in the coffin for any chance Portland had at a comeback as their deficit was just to insurmountable to overcome.
Denver ended up outscoring the Trail Blazers 28-18 in the third quarter as they led 93-65 through 36 minutes of play. The Nuggets dominating performance through three quarters was important as it allowed them a chance to rest their starters in the fourth quarter. In a series that has been incredibly tough through five games, that rest could be huge for the Nuggets starters come Game 6 on Thursday.
Rest would be all for not though as the Nuggets had to go back to their starters, because Portland opened the fourth quarter on a 11-3 run to cut Denver’s lead down to 20-points. Even though it sounds like a substantial lead, the Nuggets were just a Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum run away from losing control of the game. Jokic and the Nuggets starters quickly put that to bed though as Portland kept Lillard and McCollum out for the remainder of the game, while Denver ran away with things on the scoreboard.
It took till the three minute mark of the fourth quarter, but Denver was finally subbed out their starters with the game well in hand. The Nuggets bench unit closed things out as the Nuggets picked up a huge 124-98 victory over the Trail Blazers. With Denver’s win, they are officially just one victory away from the Western Conference Finals.
Stat leaders for Denver were Jokic, who had another monster game finishing with 25 points, 19 rebounds, and six assists, falling just shy of his fifth career playoff triple-double. Millsap also finished with a tremendous stat line of 24 points on 9-of-17 shooting from the field to go along with eight rebounds. Murray turned in another solid performance as well scoring 18 points on 7-of-16 shooting, while also hauling in five rebounds and a playoff career-high nine assists. Harris (16), Will Barton (10), and Malik Beasley (10) also finished in double-figures as all three played a big role in Denver’s victory.
The Nuggets and Trail Blazers will be back in action Thursday night in Portland for Game 6. That game will tip-off at 8:30 MDT and will be televised nationally on ESPN.