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Murray’s 34, Jokic’s triple-double lifts Denver past Portland

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Portland, OR— Behind Nikola Jokic’s fourth career playoff triple-double (21 points, 12 rebounds, 11 assist) the Denver Nuggets defeated the Portland Trailblazers 116-112. The Nuggets have now tied the series up at two games apiece.

What was big in that first half was how both teams would start and finish the quarters. Basketball is a game of runs and that was the name of the game for both ball clubs in the first half of play. Denver started the first quarter off hot going on a 15-3 run to go up by seven (17-10) in the opening frame lead by Jamal Murray, who scored 13 of his game-high 34 points in the first for the Nuggets.

Although the Nuggets would start off going hard body karate, they had trouble closing out the first quarter. With Denver struggling to stay composed, the Blazers took advantage of the opportunity to get back in the game. Portland responded to Denver’s late quarter mistakes by closing out the quarter on a 13-4 run and take a 33-29 lead to end the period.

The second frame would be much of the same for both teams. Even though Denver started off hot, their play was very sloppy, however, that was the least of their troubles in the second. Seth Curry put on a shooting exhibition in the period, scoring nine straight points on three straight triples. He outscored the Nuggets bench by himself with 16 points on 66 percent shooting from beyond the arc to end the half, 14 of which came in the second quarter. To top everything off, Curry a buzzer beater as the two teams broke for intermission with Portland holding the lead, 63-56.

The second half, you could start to see fatigue kick in for both teams who were still trying to recover from a couple of nights ago going into four overtimes. Yet, if you watched closely, the third quarter was one that decided this game somewhat.

Portland would have it tough. Not only were they outscored 27-14 in the frame alone, but Damian Lillard couldn’t buy a basket in the third. Neither could the team as they shot 5-for-18 from the field in the third frame. In addition, out of their 14 turnovers in the contest, six came in the period. Some of which came off of very questionable offensive foul calls.

Denver would score nine points off of those turnovers to go along with a 15-6 run and got a much-needed contribution from veteran power forward Paul Millsap. He scored nine of his 21 points in the period to help give the Nuggets a 84-77 lead going into the fourth.

Portland tried to make one last push in the fourth as they went on an 8-0 run lead by C.J. McCollum, who finished with 29 points on 10-for-20 shooting. Lillard would also try to get into his bag and help the Blazers get a win and take a potential 3-1 lead. Yet, fatigue kicked in at the wrong time as Lillard missed key free throws and McCollum went silent for the remainder of the frame.

The Nuggets closed out the game with key baskets by Will Barton, as well as, Gary Harris. In addition, as the old adage goes, games are won and lost at the free throw line, and that’s what told the tale of the fourth. Murray would go perfect from the line in the fourth as well as in the game (11-for-11) and his 34 points makde him the first Nugget since Carmelo Anthony in 2010, to have back-to-back 30 point playoff games.

After losing what was a very winnable historic Game Three a couple of nights ago in the Moda Center, the Nuggets found themselves in a 2-1 series hole. This was a grind it out game in every since of the word. Denver just wanted it more and what you had to respect is that they didn’t let the Game Three loss define them coming into the game. They accepted it, played their hearts out and now go into Denver in what is now a best-of-three series.

The Nuggets and Blazers will lace them up in Game Five on Tuesday night.

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