Nuggets steal Game 4 to even series at two

Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard (0) drives against Denver Nuggets guard Will Barton (5) in the second half of game four of the second round of the 2019 NBA Playoffs at Moda Center.
May 5, 2019; Portland, OR, USA; Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard (0) drives against Denver Nuggets guard Will Barton (5) in the second half of game four of the second round of the 2019 NBA Playoffs at Moda Center. Mandatory Credit: Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

In Game 4 of the Western Conference Semifinals, the Denver Nuggets were able to steal a 116-112 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers.

With the win, Denver and Portland are now tied 2-2, which turns this series into a three-game set. If the Nuggets want to make their first Western Conference Finals appearance in since 2009, they will have to win two of their remaining three games against Portland.

After playing a four overtime game just 48 hours prior, the Nuggets definitely had their backs against the wall on Sunday in Portland. A lot of Denver’s players were coming off unreal performances in terms of minutes played, which would only make it more difficult to capture a Game 4 victory in Portland.

The Nuggets showed no ill effects of their overtime loss as they came out running from the jump. Jamal Murray was a huge part of that as he opened the game 3-of-3 shooting from the field with seven points. That allowed Denver to jump out to a 15-10 lead just five minutes into the game as Murray sparked the Nuggets play offensively.

Murray finished the first quarter with 13 points on 5-of-6 shooting from the field, but the Nuggets were having trouble slowing down Portland and specifically, Damian Lillard. Not only did Lillard have four assists in the first quarter, but he also scored 10 points, including an and-1 three-pointer. Because of Lillard’s play, the Trail Blazers held a slim 33-29 lead through 12 minutes of play.

Luckily for the Nuggets, Lillard was out of the game to begin the second quarter, which is when Denver’s second unit made their push. Led by Will Barton and Malik Beasley, the Nuggets bench group was playing with a ton of energy, which allowed them to open the second quarter on a 10-0 run. That jumped Denver’s lead back up to 4-points, which vanished quickly as Portland answered with a 9-0 run of their own.

Portland’s run was sparked by Seth Curry, who was on fire from three-point range. In a span of one minute, Curry made back-to-back-to-back threes to give the Trail Blazers a 7-point lead with 4:57 left in the first half. Denver continued to fight as the quarter wore on and they eventually got Portland’s lead down to three with 25 seconds left in the half. Curry finished the first half with another three-pointer though, which gave the Trail Blazers a 63-57 lead through two quarters of play.

Murray led the Nuggets offensively at the half with 17 points, while Nikola Jokic (13) and Paul Millsap (10) were also in double-figures. Jokic also had eight rebounds and two assists, but he did have three first half turnovers. For Portland, they were led by Curry, who had 16 first half points behind four three-pointers.

In need of a strong start to the third quarter, that his exactly what the Nuggets got as they opened the period on a 8-2 run. That run allowed Denver to tie the game as Portland began the third quarter just 1-of-11 shooting from the field. The Trail Blazers were playing incredibly sloppy in the third quarter, but the Nuggets were still unable to pull away as they led by only 2-points with 6:14 left in the period.

Denver’s big push would take place just a few minutes later as they went on a 9-1 run that pushed all the momentum back in the Nuggets favor. Momentum is what Denver rode to close the period as they led 84-77 through three quarters. The Nuggets out scored the Trail Blazers 27-14 in the third as they were 12 minutes away from a Game 4 victory.

The Nuggets opened the fourth quarter with a three by Malik Beasley, but Portland responded with a 8-0 run to make it a 2-point game. It was a back and fourth action till the seven minute mark, which is when Murray hit a three-pointer to push Denver’s lead back up to six. Portland was not going away though as they continued to answer the call, which made it a 99-96 game with 4:12 to play.

Denver and Portland were in for another incredible finish as the Nuggets held that same 3-point lead all the way till there was 47 seconds left in the game. For Denver, there biggest worry was the health of Jokic as he looked to have injured his lower leg at the one minute mark of the fourth quarter. The Nuggets big man was forced to come out of the game, but he did sub back in, even if it meant him playing with a small limp.

A pair of Murray free-throws with 13 seconds remaining made it a 4-point lead for Denver as they were a defensive stop away from stealing Game 4. That is exactly what the Nuggets got as they forced a Portland lay up and got some more big free-throws by Murray to ultimately walk away with a 116-112 victory.

Stat leaders for Denver were Jokic, who finished with his fourth career playoff triple-double  of 21 points, 12 rebounds, and 11 assists. Murray also shot the ball well as he scored 34 points on 10-of-20 shooting from the field to go along with five rebounds and four assists. Millsap also had a tremendous game as he finished with a double-double of 21 points and 10 rebounds. Will Barton also finished in double-figures with 11 points as he played a big role in Denver’s win.

The Nuggets and Portland will have a day off tomorrow before Game 5 in Denver on Tuesday. That game will tip-off at 8:30 pm MDT and will be televised nationally on TNT.

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