DENVER – Michael Porter Jr.'s 3-pointer with 1:33 left in the second overtime helped the Denver Nuggets squelch an epic comeback by the Portland Trail Blazers with a 147-140 win Tuesday night in Game 5 of the first-round playoff series.
“That’s what playoff basketball is," Porter said after the thriller that included a dozen lead changes and 11 ties.
The Nuggets won despite Damian Lillard's franchise playoff record 55 points and NBA playoff record 12 3-pointers, including long distance shots that forced overtime and the second OT. He eclipsed the mark of 11 set by Golden State’s Klay Thompson at Oklahoma City on May 28, 2016.
“It was the best playoff performance I’ve ever seen,' Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. "He gave it his all. He made a lot of shots. Look, he gave it his all.
"We’re all disappointed. I have empathy for Dame. I have empathy for anybody on our team. But now’s not the time for empathy. Now’s the time to regroup and come back and get Game 6. We can’t feel sorry for ourselves.”
Lillard scored 17 of Portland's 19 points in the two overtimes, but he didn't score again after his 12th 3-pointer in 17 attempts put the Blazers ahead 140-138 with 3:47 left.
And his teammates didn't score again, either.
Nikola Jokic, who scored 38 points and came one assist shy of a triple-double, tied it at 140 with a layup and Porter broke the tie with a 3 from the left corner with 1:33 left off a sweet pass from Jokic.
The Blazers still were within three points until a pair of costly mistakes sent them back to Portland for Game 6 on Thursday night trailing the Nuggets 3-2 in the best-of-seven series.
First, Robert Covington missed a dunk with 41 seconds left and then CJ McCollum stepped out of bounds with 9.1 seconds left and Lillard setting up for another 3.
“It’s a shame we wasted one of the all-time best performances by not being more supportive of him,” McCollum said.
Monte Morris, who scored 28 points off the bench, hit a pair of free throws with 8.8 seconds to seal it, and Shaq Harrison added two free throws with 3.8 seconds remaining.
Lillard broke his own franchise scoring record, a 50-point outburst against Oklahoma City on April 23, 2019.
Lillard's 3-pointer with three seconds left in regulation tied it at 121. His 3 with 6.4 seconds left in the first overtime tied it at 135 and that capped Portland's comeback from a quick nine-point deficit in the extra period after Denver hit a trio of 3s.
The Nuggets made three quick 3-pointers in the first overtime, two by Morris and another by Austin Rivers, to surge ahead 132-123. Portland missed its first five long balls in the extra period before Lillard sank three in the final minute to force a second overtime.
By holding on, Denver improved to 187-1 in games since April 2, 2008, in which they led at any point by 22 or more, including the postseason.
The game looked like a blowout for Denver when the Nuggets went up 54-32 on Paul Millsap’s layup with 7:52 left in the second quarter.
Denver was still ahead 59-39 with 51/2 minutes left in the second quarter only to watch the Blazers use a 23-6 run to pull to 65-62 at halftime.
McCollum’s buzzer-beating 11-foot jumper made it a one-possession game at the break. During Portland’s big run, the Nuggets went without a basket for more than four minutes as the biggest crowd of the season — 10,500 — went from exuberant to edgy.
Portland took its first lead at 83-82 on Lillard's free throw after Jokic was whistled for a technical for arguing for a call.
ORDER ON THE COURT
Nuggets coach Michael Malone had a strong reaction to the spate of bad fan behavior across the NBA, saying it “tarnishes the game.”
“People are acting the fool. That’s my reaction. And it’s almost like it’s a copycat thing now: who can one-up the other person?” Malone said. ”... I think some people are coming out of this COVID pandemic and maybe they just are trying to express themselves. But that’s not the way to do it. Let the players play the game, enjoy the game and keep your (rear) in the seat, keep your water bottles in your lap and please don’t spit or use any racist language to any player.
“Not just our players but any player. That tarnishes the game. And the playoffs are the best time of the year for NBA basketball. Let’s get back to spotlighting the players that we have across the league.”
Stotts called it “kind of a disturbing or disappointing trend. On second thought, “hopefully, it’s not a trend,” Stotts said. “Hopefully it’s just isolated incidents.”
Trail Blazers: Lillard bounced back from his 10-point performance on 1-of-10 shooting in Game 4 to hit 17 of 24 shots, including 12 of 17 from long range and 9 of 10 from the stripe.
Nuggets: Denver’s first basket of the second half came at the 9:51 mark on Aaron Gordon’s dunk. ... In a three-second sequence in the second quarter, Jokic blocked consecutive shots by Norman Powell and Nurkic. ... The Nuggets went 5 for 7 on 3s in the extra periods to Portland's 4 of 12.
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