The Blazers and Nuggets have had the most consistently competitive second round series, most notably a four overtime Blazers win in Game 3 in Portland, and Game 4 was no exception, as Denver evened the series at 2-2 with a 116-112 win.
The two teams traded leads throughout the game, with Portland leading by six at the half and Denver charging back to take a seven-point lead going into the fourth quarter. Early on, it was the Damian Lillard show as he had 10 points in the opening period to help the Blazers fight back from an early deficit to take a lead exiting the first, but he was quiet for the next 30 minutes of action.
Seth Curry stepped up to fill the scoring void in the backcourt as Lillard went quiet in the second quarter, scoring 16 in the first half, including four three-pointers.
While Curry provided much needed marksmanship from deep, it was C.J. McCollum that carried the load on offense for Portland while the Nuggets shifted focus to slowing Lillard. McCollum had 29, including four threes of his own, and sparked the offense when they needed to hang in during Denver’s third quarter onslaught.
The Nuggets meanwhile followed the lead of the usual suspects to keep the Blazers within reach, as Jamal Murray, Nikola Jokic, and Paul Millsap led them offensively, each scoring more than 20. Murray had 34 points on 10-of-20 shooting on the night, while Jokic had a 21-point, 12-rebound, 11-assist triple-double and Millsap had 21 of his own.
Second chance points were huge for Denver, as they hauled in 17 offensive boards on the night.
In the fourth quarter, it was the duel we’ve come to expect between the Nuggets’ offensive stars and the Blazers’ star backcourt as Lillard once again came alive late. After a Murray three pushed Denver’s lead back to six, Lillard re-entered the game and got his fourth quarter started with a huge three in traffic.
With three minutes to play, a pair of Lillard free throws cut the Nuggets lead to one when Jokic found Will Barton in the corner for a huge three to extend the advantage to four, and followed another Lillard bucket with a three to extend the lead again seconds later.
The Nuggets once again focused their defensive effort on Lillard, which required someone else for the Blazers to step up on offense. As has been the case much of this series, Rodney Hood was willing to answer the call, hitting a big three to cut the Denver advantage to three late, and a Portland stop on the other end made it a one-possession game.
Lillard drew a foul on Harris, but split the free throws to leave Denver with a two-point advantage and just over 20 seconds to play. Murray and the Nuggets were able to run off seven seconds before the leading scorer on the night was sent to the free throw line, where he was able to cash in both of his at the charity stripe. Lillard reached 27 points on the night (he finished with 28) with a quick layup that once again made it a two-point game, but Murray found his way to the line again and calmly knocked down both free throws to keep the Blazers at arms length.
However, because this series is never over until the final buzzer, C.J. McCollum was able to hit a catch-and-shoot corner jumper, but he had his toe on the line, giving Denver a two-point advantage again. Murray again got to the free throw line and, for the third time in the closing seconds, drained his free throws to put the finishing touches on a four-point win.