CJ McCollum scored 20 points, picking up the slack with backcourt mate Damian Lillard battling, and the Portland Trail Blazers turned back the Denver Nuggets 97-90 on Wednesday night to even their playoff series at 1-1.
The Trail Blazers led by 15 at halftime, 17 in the third quarter and 14 to begin the fourth yet the Nuggets pulled to 95-90 in the final moment because of an amazing 14 hostile bounce back and a 19-9 keep running before Rodney Hood’s without two tosses with 17 seconds left iced it.
“The good news is they had all of those offensive rebounds but they didn’t convert a lot,” Portland coach Terry Stotts said. “They were 8 for 24 on second-chance points. We were fortunate we came away not hurt as badly as we could have been on the offensive boards.
“(Nikola) Jokic and (Paul) Millsap were just playing volleyball with it. They’re both excellent offensive rebounders. They’re a top-three offensive rebounding team anyway and we’ve got to make sure they don’t have those opportunities in Game 3.”
Lillard included 14 yet was only 5 of 17 from the floor and 1 of 7 from 3-point range, 24 hours in the wake of scoring 39 in the series opener. In any case, the Blazers caught the home-court advantage with the series shifting to Portland for Game 3 on Friday night.
Jokic had 16 points and 14 boards yet got off to a moderate begin and wasn’t almost the take-control force he was in Game 1, when he scored 37 points.
With Jokic taking – and missing – only one shot in the first quarter and scoring six points in the first half, the Nuggets trailed 50-35 at halftime after the establishment’s most noticeably awful quarter ever at home in the playoffs, one in which they made only 5 of 23 shots and missed every one of the 10 of their 3-pointers.
Nuggets coach Michael Malone said he admonished his team at halftime, “‘if you’re not making shots, maybe attack the basket, maybe get to the foul line, maybe get to the rim.’ And we were getting such open looks. I understand our players shooting the shot. But when you’re not having a night when you’re making a shot consistently, you’ve got to attack the basket, you’ve got to push pressure on the rim. You’ve got to think attack instead of settle. And I thought in that first half we didn’t have that mind-set.”
To finish it off, they lost sparkplug forward Torrey Craig, whose nose was bloodied after he was thumped down and pummeled into teammate Monte Morris’ foot early in the second quarter.
Minutes after Craig tottered off, leaving a trail of blood, Maurice Harkless moved his correct lower leg and furthermore left the diversion. Harkless didn’t return however Craig returned the second half.
The Nuggets were booed off the court at the break after missing their final eight shots. Denver’s backcourt was only 5 of 18 in the first half, including 2 of 11 from Jamal Murray, who might miss a great part of the fourth quarter while endeavoring to release up his tight right thigh he hurt in the last series.
Craig, whose inclusion into the beginning lineup pivoted the Nuggets’ first-round series against San Antonio, came back with a face veil with 3 minutes left in the third quarter. minute left in the quarter was Denver’s first since 1:11 of the first quarter.
“I think Torrey Craig is the unsung hero of the game,” Malone said. “He’s got some (guts). He’s got some toughness.”
Jokic pushed Enes Kanter, who hammered into Craig with 43.5 seconds left on a made free toss. Murray protested Kanter gazing intently at the fallen Craig and a fight followed at midcourt. Partners dashed to split them up and the two were surveyed a double technical.
Stotts and his assistants rocked bow ties Wednesday night out of appreciation for Jon Yim, the team’s video facilitator and player improvement coach who was truly harmed in a car crash a week ago that left him hospitalized with a broken leg and fallen lung.
Yim’s bow tie habit led to “Bow Tie Wednesday,” that Stotts and his staff are proceeding to pay regards to Yim and individuals from his family who were harmed in the accident.
“It was for Jon Yim,” Stotts said. “On Wednesdays he would wear bow ties to the game. I think bow ties are undefeated this year.”
Portland: Starting advances Harkless and Al-Farouq Aminu joined for 10 in the first quarter in the wake of being held to a consolidated four in Game 1. … Lillard, whose 37-foot 3-pointer eliminated the Thunder last week, is just 5 of 19 from long range in this series.
Denver: The Nuggets missed 23 of 29 3-pointers. … Will Barton sank two foul shots with 8:19 left in the fourth quarter after an odd sequence in which the Jokic missed a jumper and the Nuggets missed five put-backs.