The Portland Trail Blazers beat the Denver Nuggets 100-96 in Game 7 on Sunday to advance to their first Western Conference Championship Finals since 2000.
The Nuggets had led 39-22 at one point in the second quarter, but the Blazers slowly chipped away at their advantage.
CJ McCollum scored 37 points for the Blazers, which was just as well as Damian Lillard scored 13 points and made just 3 of 17 shots from the field. Rodney Hood scored 14 points, but hyperextended his left knee in the third quarter.
Nikola Jokic scored 29 points for the Nuggets, with Jamal Murray adding 17 (but missing 14 of 18 shots).
The reward for the Trail Blazers is the Western Conference Finals against the two-time defending NBA champions, the Golden State Warriors. The opening game of the series takes place on Tuesday night at Golden State.
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Portland looked as though they could be on the verge of elimination as Denver led by as many as 10 points in the opening quarter, but the Blazers led 58-54 at halftime after outscoring the Nuggets 32-20 in the second quarter.
Damian Lillard had 32 points for the Blazers, with CJ McCollum adding 30 points and Rodney Hood came off the bench with a career playoff-high 25 points.
Nikola Jokic once again led the Denver Nuggets with 29 points and 12 rebounds, while Jamal Murray added 24 points and 10 rebounds.
The series now shifts to Denver for the crucial Game 7, with the winner of Sunday’s game facing the winner of the series between the Golden State Warriors and the Houston Rockets in the Western Conference Finals.
Game 6 Update – The Denver Nuggets had a 124-98 rout of the Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday night to give them a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven Western Conference semifinal series.
The Nuggets can now secure their first trip to the Western Conference Finals in a decade with a win in Portland in Game 6.
The Nuggets never trailed in the game, with the Blazers missing their first five shots to fall behind 9-2. Denver then extended their six-point lead after one quarter to 18 at the half and 28 heading into the fourth quarter.
Nikola Jokic scored 25 points for the Denver Nuggets, tying a team NBA playoff high with 19 rebounds in the process, while Paul Millsap added 24 points.
Portland once again looked to Damian Lillard who led them with 22 points, although he only went 2 of 9 on 3-pointers.
Game 6 is is scheduled for Thursday night in Portland.
Game 5 Update – The Denver Nuggets leveled their Western Conference semifinal series at 2-2 against the Portland Trail Blazers with a 116-112 victory on Sunday night.
The Nuggets showed great character in rallying to the win less than 48 hours after the Trail Blazers’ 140-137 quadruple-overtime victory that gave them a 2-1 lead in the series.
Jamal Murray scored 34 points and made all 11 free throws for Denver, while Nikola Jokic had 21 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists for the Nuggets in what was his second straight triple-double and fourth of the playoffs.
For the Blazers, CJ McCollum had 29 points, with Damian Lillard adding 28.
Despite continued concerns about his left shoulder, which he injured in Game 5 of the first round playoffs against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Enes Kanter started for Portland.
The series now returns to Denver for Game 5.
Game 4 Update – The Portland Trail Blazers beat the Denver Nuggets 140-137 to take a 2-1 lead in the Western Conference semifinals, after Robin Hood hit the key 3-pointer with 18.6 seconds left in what was just the second quadruple-overtime playoff game in NBA history.
The Trail Blazers have won the last two games after Denver’s victory in Game 1.
CJ McCollum matched his career playoff high with 41 points, while Damian Lillard added 28 for the Trail Blazers.
Jamal Murray had a NBA playoff-high 34 points for the Nuggets, while Nikola Jokic scored 33 points, with 18 rebounds and 14 assists, but missed a crucial free throw with 5.6 seconds remaining.
Maurice Harkless started for the Trail Blazers after rolling his ankle in the second quarter of Game 2. Enes Kanter re-injured his left shoulder, but finished with 18 points and 15 rebounds.
Game 4 is scheduled for Sunday evening in Portland.
Game 3 Update – The Portland Trail Blazers beat the Denver Nuggets 97-90 on Wednesday night to even their Western Conference semifinal series 1-1.
The Nuggets trailed 50-35 at halftime, by which point they had made just 5 of 23 shots and missed all 10 of their 3-pointers.
CJ McCollum led the Portland Trail Blazers with 20 points, while Enes Kanter and Rodney Hood each scored 15. Damian Lillard was held to 14 points on 5-of-17 shooting.
Nikola Jokic had 16 points and 14 boards for the Denver Nuggets. Jamal Murray added 15 points, but missed 12 of 18 shots.
The series now moves to Portland for Game 3 Friday night.
Game 2 Update – The Denver Nuggets took the early initiative in their second-round Western Conference series against the Portland Trail Blazers with a 121-113 win in the opening game on Monday night.
Nikola Jokic scored 37 points for the Nuggets, making 11 of 18 shots, all 12 of his free throws, alongside nine boards and a half dozen assists. Jamal Murray added 23 points and eight assists for Denver.
Damian Lillard outscored Jokic with 39 points for the Trail Blazers, for whom Enes Kanter added 26 points on his return after having separated his left shoulder in Game 5 against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Game 2 is on Wednesday night at the Pepsi Center.
The Denver Nuggets meet the Portland Trail Blazers in Round 2 of the NBA Western Conference playoffs. The Nuggets return to duty after finally seeing off the San Antonio Spurs in Game 7 on Saturday night. It was the Nuggets’ first playoff series win since 2009.
The Trail Blazers haven’t played since Tuesday and are coming off a five-game series against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Nuggets have been on the winning side in six of the last seven meetings against the Trail Blazers.
The key factor for the Nuggets could be Nikola Jokic, who looks likely to dominate against Enes Kanter, particularly with Kanter being less than 100 percent due to a shoulder injury.
For the Trail Blazers, Damian Lillard will go into the series full of confidence. Lillard hit the series-ending buzzer-beater in Game 5 against the Thunder, then waved their opponents off the floor. C.J. McCollum, was also outstanding against Oklahoma in the first round series.
Portland’s five-game series win over the Thunder came despite the injury absence of center Jusuf Nurkic, who is ruled out for the postseason after a leg injury in March. His absence might be more costly against the Denver Nuggets.
Denver Nuggets vs Portland Trail Blazers Betting Lines & Pick
NBA Playoff predictions for this series will certainly have to take into account the home-court advantage given the Nuggets record in front of their vocal fans.
It’s an edge that, along with the hugely impressive Jokic, has to make Denver the tips to progress, with 4-2 looking a plausible score to back once the odds are available.
The opening game in the series takes place on Monday night in Denver.
Pick: Series Score – Denver Nuggets 4-2