With their backs to the wall, the Portland Trail Blazers’ guards showed up and forced a Game 7 against the Denver Nuggets.
The only realistic path to victory for the Portland Trail Blazers in Game 6 involved fantastic performances from Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. That pairing, with the help of Rodney Hood, was more than enough to get another win at home and force a Game 7 on Sunday back in Denver.
Portland trailed early but kept pressing and the shots eventually started falling. They hit 4-of-8 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, along with several key finishes in the paint, and were able to hold off Denver down the stretch. Along the way, Lillard broke the record for most 30-point playoff games in franchise history.
Game 7 will be Sunday, and decide who meets the winner of the Rockets and Warriors in the Western Conference Finals.
The Blazers backcourt was money. Portland’s strength is the shooting and shot-creation of Lillard and McCollum and both players came up huge in Game 6. That pairing combined for 62 points and 8 assists, shooting 23-of-47 from the field and 8-of-20 on 3-pointers. Rodney Hood has been exceptional off the bench in this series and he was incredible in support of Portland’s Big 2, scoring 25 points on just 12 shots. Portland can look unbeatable when everyone is hitting shots and this was an exquisite performance from their backcourt in a high-leverage situation.
Zach Collins showed up. His responsibilities have increased with Enes Kanter injured and this was Collins’ best performance in the playoffs. The young and mobile big had 14 points and 5 blocks, helping stymie Denver’s activity around the rim and acting as a pressure-release valve on offense with his shooting and athleticism in the paint. Collins is the Blazers’ center of the future and he showed exactly how bright that might be in Game 6.
The Nuggets need everyone else. Jokic has been absolutely exceptional in every game this series, establishing himself as one of the most dominant players in this postseason. But when his supporting cast hasn’t shown up, he hasn’t been enough for Denver. The Nuggets won Game 5 because Paul Millsap, Gary Harris and Jamal Murray played their roles to perfection. That group managed 56 points in Game 6, but on 46 shots. Malik Beasley, their best shooter off the bench, missed all eight of his shots from the field, including four 3-pointers. Jokic didn’t have enough help, and the Nuggets lost. Now they have one more chance for all the marbles.