Powell's Points, Nurkic's Defense Helps Blazers Blow Out Nuggets In Game 4

PORTLAND -- This is why the Trail Blazers traded for Norman Powell.

The 6-3 guard, acquired from the Toronto Raptors at the 2021 trade deadline, tied his career-high for points in a playoff game with 29 to lead the Trail Blazers to a 115-95 victory versus the Nuggets in Game 4 in front of a sellout of 8,050 Saturday afternoon at the Moda Center.

“I thought the effort that we put in from start-to-finish was the exact effort that we needed,” said Powell. “I thought we were able to take the effort that we had from Game 3, the way we started the game. They went on a little run and we were able to sustain that, we were able to take the punch and be able to punch back. We have to keep the same effort, locked in and focused for all our guys that are on the floor being locked into the game plan. That’s the energy and effort we need for the full course of the game and the series.”

The Trail Blazers have tied the best-of-seven series at 2-2 with Game 5 scheduled for Tuesday in Denver. And with the Trail Blazers getting the win, they assure themselves a Game 6, which is scheduled for Thursday, June 3 at Moda Center.

While Game 4 wasn’t technically an elimination game for the Trail Blazers, the prospect of heading back to Denver with a chance for the Nuggets to close the series out in five games made it all but a must-win.

And the Trail Blazers played like it. They scored the first six points of the game and would go on an early 9-0 run to take their first double-digit lead less than eight minutes into the game. Jusuf Nurkic and Powell, who combined to score 19 points on 8-of-11 shooting in the first quarter, would both get going early on, to help the Trail Blazers take a 32-24 lead into the second quarter.

“I just try to pick my spots,” said Powell, who also converted almost as many three-pointers in the first quarter of Game 4 (2) as he had in the first three games of the series (3). “The first play was called for me so I was looking to attack downhill, put pressure on their defense, read the rotations, and make the right play. I’m just trying to be aggressive, attack, and make the right play with the reads that I have.”

But even Powell scoring efficiently and Nurkic holding Nikola Jokic in check, the Nuggets were able to get back into the game in the second quarter. Behind nine points in the first four and a half minute of the quarter from JaMychal Green, the Nuggets tied the game at 36-36, even with Jokic on the bench. But Portland’s defense managed to clamp down thereafter, holding the Nuggets scoreless for the next four minutes to pave the way for 10-0 run that would once again give Portland a 10-point lead going into the intermission.

“To be honest, in Game 3, we came out with the same aggression, same attitude,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “We came out with good aggressiveness and just didn’t sustain it at the end of the first quarter in Game 3, but tonight, our consistency with our effort was part of it. But we came out the way we needed to and sustained it.”

Though they had control for most of the first half, Portland took an iron grip on the game by opening the second half with a 12-2 run, with Powell putting up half those points, to take a 20-point lead early in the third quarter. And then a 16-2 run -- Portland held Denver scoreless for nearly three minutes this time around -- from the 5:55 to 1:55 in the third gave the Trail Blazers a 91-58 lead while all but ensuring their first home win of the 2021 Playoffs.

“It was a great win for us,” said Damian Lillard. “I think the way that we won the game especially just coming out with a lot of energy, we defended, we were aggressive, the ball was moving, and typically we will start that way and will have drop offs, we won’t be able to sustain it. I thought we did a great job at keeping our focus and sustaining that level defensively especially to start the third quarter. Going into the half with a 10 point lead we didn’t come out and mess around. We came out, we picked up, we were physical, we were sharp and paid attention to details. We locked in on our scouting report and we took the challenge.”

Powell tied his career playoff high with 29 points on 11-of-15 shooting from the field and 4-of-4 shooting from three to go with two rebounds, two blocks, an assist and a steal in 34 minutes.

“I think that’s one of the reasons I was brought over here, to be another guy that can get after it and go get it,” said Powell. “Any given night, any of us can get it going and it makes it tough for the defense to know who to guard and who to try to stop.”

McCollum went 9-of-19 for 21 points to go with eight assists and four rebounds in 35 minutes. Lillard, who went just 1of-10 from the field, came just short of a triple-double with 10 points, 10 assists and two eight rebounds in 31 minutes

Nurkic contributed 17 points. on 6-of-8 shooting, six rebounds, two blocks an a steal in 27 minutes. But more importantly, he was only called for three fouls after fouling out in the last two games while being the primary reason Portland was able to hold Nikola Jokic to 16 points.

“(Nurkic) played good defense on Jokic and he stayed out of foul trouble,” said Stotts. “That was key. We’re obviously better when Nurk is able to stay on the floor, especially against Denver. The offense comes and goes. He gets his opportunities, but I thought he really locked in defensively and was solid. He didn’t gamble very much and like I said, defended without fouling.””

Carmelo Anthony put up 12 points off the bench on his 37 birthday and Robert Covington added nine points, nine rebounds, a block, an assist and a steal in 36 minutes.

Portland held the Nuggets to just 34 percent shooting from the field and 30 percent shooting from three, with Jokic leading the visitors with 16. points in 27 minutes. Both Facundo Campazzo and Monte Morris finished with 12 points and Green added 11.

Now, both teams will have the next two days to travel back to Colorado’s capital and prepare for Game 5, which is scheduled for Tuesday at 6 p.m. at Ball Arena.