The best home court record during the regular part of the NBA season didn’t mean anything for the Denver Nuggets tonight. They lost Game 7 of the series against the Portland Trail Blazers, who advanced to the conference finals.
The final result was 100-96, for the guests who were at the same stage for the first time after the 2000 season.
Despite all the odds, which weren’t on Blazers side before this game started, Terry Stotts guys made the biggest success of this generation.
And the guy who needs to be credited the most for that – CJ McCollum. The explosive guard was unstoppable on the court, on both sides. Offensively he created a lot of troubles for the Nuggets and managed to drop 37 points. Not only that, he hit a game-winner with 11.4 seconds to go, which put a dagger in Denver’s hopes.
His confidence was so high tonight, and nothing could stop him.
“He wanted the ball, and he can make things happen with it,” Stotts said about McCollum’s game-winner.
The block on Jamal Murray, when he chased the Nuggets’ player down the court and rejected his layup was the moment when the momentum completely shifted to the guests’ side. McCollum was kidding after the game that his block was similar to the one LeBron had against the Warriors in Game 7 of the 2016 Finals.
“It was a mini version of Bron’s block on Igy,” adding that he will remember that move forever.
To be honest, there wasn’t anything “mini” about his play this Sunday, McCollum posted one of the best performances in his career. Besides 37 points he had 9 boards, and 17 hits from the field from 29 attempts.
The Trail Blazers were behind 17 points during the second sequence, when Denver had a 39-22 lead. Yet the home team didn’t know how to keep that lead. Fast shots, selfish play, bad shooting selection, unreasonable decisions, all that could be seen in Denver’s game.
Jamal Murray once again choked and caused for many of his critics to be very loud on the social media. He had 17 points shooting 4 of 18, hurting his team in several situations when they had a nice advantage. His inexperience was obvious, and Trail Blazers exploited that in the best possible way.
Paul Millsap didn’t prove his salary or the status of an experienced All-Star player. With 3 of 13 from the field, and numerous bad decisions he utterly failed to do his work on the court. And that was to lead the team and guide them through tough situations.
The only guy who did his part of the job was Nikola Jokic. He had 29 points, 13 boards, and 4 blocks. The Joker mentioned during the press conference that Portland played “smarter.”
“We had our chances, they had their chances, and they just used it…..smarter,” said Jokic after a pause, during which he wanted to find a proper word.
— NBA TV (@NBATV) May 12, 2019
Damian Lillard didn’t have one of his nights, and Dame scored only 13 buckets but had a very important role in the moments when Portland took the lead from the home team. Despite 3 of 17 from the field, Lillard was aggressive attacking the rim, and had a contribution in other aspects, 10 boards, and 8 assists.
Evan Tarner who was invisible in the playoffs until now, showed up and scored 14 points in 19 minutes, hitting all but one of his 9 free throws. He sunk the last two of the contest which separated the Trail Blazers from Denver to a two-possession game.
Enes Kanter added a double-double 12 buckets and 13 rebounds.
All in all, Portland deserved to win this one, especially with the way they used opponents’ mistakes. Nuggets have a lot to regret for in these playoffs. Jokic and his teammates could have reached the conference finals and measure up with the Warriors.
Instead of them, the Blazers will start their series with the reigning champions this Wednesday at the Oracle Arena.