The Denver Nuggets showed incredible resolve, bouncing back from a quadruple-overtime loss to win Game 4 and even things with the Portland Trail Blazers.
After pouring themselves, emotionally and physically, into what turned out to be a quadruple-overtime loss in Game 3, the Nuggets could have withered. Instead, the rose to the challenge and pulled out a gutsy win on the road to even their series with the Trail Blazers.
Denver used a huge third quarter to take control of the game, managing to keep Portland at an arm’s length from there until the final buzzer mercifully sounded. After playing 61 minutes in Game 3, Nikola Jokic went 39 in Game 4, putting up another ultra-efficient triple-double. Paul Millsap and Will Barton both chipped in but it was Jamal Murray and his 34 points that made the difference for Denver.
Gary Harris is putting in work on Damian Lillard. Harris’ has been extremely quiet on offense throughout the series, averaging 12.5 points per game and hitting just 3-of-16 on 3-pointers. But his defense on Lillard has been persistent and focused, and one of the major reasons the Nuggets have been able to keep him off rhythm. Coming into this game, Lillard had scored just 19 points on the 96 possessions on which Harris had been his primary defender. He’s helped keep Lillard off his favorite spots on the floor and, on a crucial possession under 30 seconds left in the game and with a 3-point lead, he had the foresight to jump Lillard out by the halfcourt logo and force him to drive instead of pulling up from hero territory. In a playoff series, it’s not just about shutting down the other team’s stars, it’s about shaving off points here and there. Harris has been as responsible as anyone for making Lillard look good instead of exceptional in this series.
The Trail Blazers really needed Enes Kanter tonight. I realize how depressing that sounds but 5 points was a huge letdown considering how well he’d been playing in the playoffs up until now. His work as a cutter, pick-and-roll finisher and crashing the offensive glass opens space for Lillard and CJ McCollum and at least cancels out some of what Nikola Jokic does at the other end. When Kanter is ineffective, the Blazers are starting from a deep hole. They couldn’t climb out tonight.
Jamal Murray was ice. 34 points on 20 shots was nice. 11-of-11 from the free throw line was even nicer. Making six straight free throws in the last 13 seconds to ice the game? Nicest.