McCollum-Led Comeback Falls Just Short Versus Denver

by Casey Holdahl
Follow @chold

PORTLAND -- After leading the comeback for the second half, CJ McCollum’s 21-foot jumper as time expired missed the mark, resulting in the Trail Blazers falling 113-112 to the Denver Nuggets in front of a sellout crowd of 19,459 Friday night at the Moda Center.

"Coach drew up a little spread action where I run to the corner and come off the double," said McCollum of the final play. "(Aminu) slips and then Dame hits Nurk and comes around for a little handoff. Dame turned the corner, ran into a crowd, and kicked it to me. I missed an open 18-footer."

The Trail Blazers are now 13-9 overall and 8-4 at home this season. Portland has now lost four-straight to Denver, who now sit at the top of the Northwest Division standings.

Portland trailed for almost the entirety of Friday night’s contest, thanks in large part to Denver shooting 52 percent from the field and 60 percent from three the first half.

“Another game we dug a hole in the first half,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “Defensively, two games in a row at least that defensively we dug a hole and had to come back in the second half. I was proud of the way we played in the second half, just disappointed in how we got in such a hole in the first half.”

The Trail Blazers did manage to chip away at the lead in the second half, getting it down to six points by the end of the third quarter behind the play of McCollum. And it would take almost the entirety of the fourth quarter, but Portland was able to tie the game at 108-108 with 56.9 seconds to play after a McCollum 15-footer.

The Nuggets would reclaim the lead after two Jamal Murray free throws, though McCollum knotted the game up on the next possession with a coast-to-coast layup with 37.1 seconds to play. The Nuggets missed their next attempt, but were able to corral the offensive rebound and find Gary Harris wide open for a three-pointer to take a 113-100 lead with 16.5 seconds to play.

Rather than chance a foul or a three-pointer, the Nuggets let McCollum drive to the rim for an easy dunk to cut the lead to 113-112 with just over 10 seconds to play.

Murray was called for stepping out of bounds on the ensuing inbound play, though the call was overturned on review. But he would then step out of bounds, a call that would not be overturned, giving Portland a chance to win the game with 5.7 seconds to play.

But despite being Portland’s most effective offensive weapon by far Friday night, McCollum couldn’t get the jumper to fall as time expired.

"Playing from behind takes a lot of energy," said McCollum. "You can't do that, especially against good teams. We've done it against good teams, we've done it against teams under .500. It's catching up to us now. We've got to start games better, we've got to defend a lot better so that we don't have to depend on somebody stepping out of bounds with five seconds left for us to get a chance to even win the game. Even if I make that shot, it still wasn't a good game for us."

TOP PERFORMERS

McCollum led all scorers with 33 points on 14-of-21 shooting from the field to go with four rebounds, an assist and a steal in 37 minutes.

Al-Farouq Aminu put up a season-high of 20 points on 7-of-9 shooting from the field and 2-of-4 shooting from three to go with seven rebounds, an assist and a steal in just under 29 minutes.

Jusuf Nurkic notched his 12th double-double of the season with 17 points and 11 rebounds in 29 minutes.

Damian Lillard added 15 points and eight rebounds and Meyers Leonard scored 11 points, all in the first half, to go with four rebounds, three assists and a block in 26 minutes.

Five Nuggets scored in double figures led by 27 points from Gary Harris.

LISTEN UP

NOTABLE

• Portland shot 52.9% from the field (45-of-85) while the Nuggets shot 46.0% from the field (40-of-87).

• The Trail Blazers outscored Denver in the paint, 66-44.

• Portland had 18 second chance points and 12 fast break points while the Nuggets had 14 second chance points and 11 fast break points.

• The Trail Blazers outrebounded the Nuggets, 44-41.

• Portland recorded six blocks and seven steals while Denver registered three blocks and 11 steals.

• The Trail Blazers made 76.2% of their free throws (16-of-21) while the Nuggets shot 73.1% from the stripe (19-of-26).

QUOTABLE

"It’s something we need to talk about. You can’t just keep doing it and I guess to get past it, you’ve got to talk about it and go over those things and get to the bottom of it so you can be better. I think we will.” -- Damian Lillard on Portland's recent slow starts

NEXT UP

The Trail Blazers now hit the road for a two-game Texas road trip that start Sunday versus the Spurs in San Antonio. Tipoff is scheduled for 4 p.m.