The Portland Trail Blazers kept their season alive on Thursday night with a 119-108 victory over the Denver Nuggets.
Denver and the Trail Blazers are now tied 3-3 in the Western Conference Semifinals, which means the two teams will play a win or go home Game 7 on Sunday in Denver.
Just like they did in Game 5, the Nuggets opened the game on fire as they asserted themselves on the offensive end of the court. Denver started the game on a 16-7 run as Jamal Murray and Gary Harris each had five early points behind two three-pointers. Portland had no answer of how to slow down Murray or Harris, but they struggled even more against Nuggets big man, Nikola Jokic.
With four rebounds, four assists, and three rebounds in the games first four minutes, Jokic was dominating the game and Denver was benefiting because of it. The Nuggets followed Jokic’s lead as they played their best first quarter of the series and held a 34-26 lead after 12 minutes of play. After one quarter, Jokic was on pace for his fifth triple-double of the playoffs as he already had 10 points, five rebounds, and four assists.
Jokic, Murray, and Harris played every minute in the first quarter, which meant all three were on the bench to begin the second period. That was bad news for Denver as the Trial Blazers bench opened quarter number two on a 11-4 run. That cut the Nuggets lead to one point as Denver’s bench unit struggled, which is becoming a trend in the postseason.
This prompted Michael Malone to sub his starters back in a little sooner than usual, but Portland was still gaining confidence. CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard caught fire in the second quarter, but the Trail Blazers only led by two points with 3:12 left in the first half. The Trail Blazers would build on their lead to close the half, but not by much as Denver trailed 58-54 at halftime.
At the break, Denver was led by Jokic, who had 16 points, six rebounds, and four assists on 7-of-10 shooting from the field. Murray was the Nuggets only other player in double-figures with 13 points to go along with five rebounds and four assists. For Portland, they had three players in double-figures with McCollum (15), Rodney Hood (14), and Lillard (11).
Coming into Game 6, the Nuggets had done a lot of their damage out of halftime, which is something they were looking to duplicate on Thursday night. Denver did just that as Harris opened the third quarter with a massive dunk and a three-pointer, which allowed the Nuggets to regain the lead. Lillard and the Trail Blazers quickly responded as Denver and Portland were knotted at 69 apiece with 6:47 left in the third quarter.
Luckily for Denver, they had Jokic to help keep pace with Lillard as the two superstars were exchanging buckets most of the third quarter. Lillard was feeling it a little more though as he scored 17 third quarter points, which led to Portland holding a 87-80 lead through 36 minutes of play.
Since the first quarter, Portland was up on Denver 61-46 as the Nuggets desperately needed a spark to open the fourth quarter. The opposite would end up happening though as Hood continued to score on all cylinders for Portland as they opened the quarter on a 7-5 advantage. That allowed the Trail Blazers to bump their lead up to nine points as the Nuggets had 9:56 to turn things around and complete a comeback victory.
The Trail Blazers pushed their fourth quarter run up to 14-8 as they suddenly held their largest lead of the night (13) with 7:24 left in the game. Portland’s strong start to the fourth quarter was the proverbial nail in the coffin for Denver as the Trail Blazers controlled the rest of the fourth quarter. Because of that, Portland was able to force a Game 7 with a 119-108 victory over the Nuggets.
Stat leaders for Denver were Jokic, who recorded another playoff double-double scoring 29 points, hauling in 12 rebounds, and dishing out eight assists. Jokic did all that on 10-of-15 shooting from the field as he continued his dominant play in the postseason. Murray also had another solid game as he recorded his first career playoff double-double with 24 points and 10 rebounds, but did struggle to shoot the ball going just 7-of-20 from the field. Other Nuggets who finished in double-figures were Paul Millsap (17), Harris (15) and Torrey Craig (10).
Denver and Portland will be back in action on Sunday in Denver for Game 7. The time and national television broadcast for that game is still to be determined.