Trail Blazers Face Elimination After Game 5 Blowout Loss In Denver

by Casey Holdahl
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DENVER -- This time of year, players, coaches and fans alike are fond of trotting out the old "win or go home" sports adage.

For the Trail Blazers, it's now a case of win or stay home.

Portland shot just 38 percent from the field, 29 percent from three and a perplexing 53 percent from the free throw line in a wire-to-wire, 124-98 loss to the Denver Nuggets in Game 5 of the Western Conference Semifinals Tuesday night at the Pepsi Center.

"To be honest, they played a very good game and we didn't play a very good game," said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. "That's the bottom line.

The Nuggets now lead the series 3-2 and the Trail Blazers are now a loss away from elimination with the series heading back to Portland for Game 6 Thursday night at the Moda Center.

Unlike the previous four games in the series, Tuesday night's game wasn't all that competitive from the jump. Between missing their first six shots, bricking free throws and Denver scoring seemingly at will, Portland trailed by as many as eight points before settling in to cut the deficit to 31-25 going in to the second quarter.

But the Nuggets scored the first eight points, with six of those coming on back-to-back three-pointers from Will Barton, before three minutes had elapsed in the second quarter to push their lead to 39-25.

The Blazers were able to answer, at least relative to their effort at that point thus far, thanks to Zach Collins and Damian Lillard, the latter of which made a three-pointer with 6:25 to play to cut Denver's advantage to seven. But the Nuggets would close out the half by outscoring Portland 22-9 to go up by as many as 20 points before taking an 18-point lead into the intermission.

It only got worse in the second half. Portland made just seven field goals in the quarter, scored just 18 points and went down by as many as 31, by far the largest deficit either team had previously faced in the series. With the game out of reach before the start of the fourth, Stotts pulled his regular rotation, letting the likes of Meyers Leonard, Jake Layman, Evan Turner and Anfernee Simons close out a disappointing and embarrassing loss.

"I just think they played as good as they could play and we probably played as worse a game that we could play," said Lillard. "We didn't have a lot of turnovers, neither did they, but on the road, you get outrebounded the way we did, as a team, I think we missed 14 free throws. When all those things happen it's a slim chance that you gonna win the game. And we didn't shoot the ball well. I think the good thing for us is whether you lose by one or you lose by 25, it's one game. We going back home to try to force a Game 7 and try to make it back here."

The Blazers were led by Lillard, who went 5-of-16 from the field, 2-of-9 from the three-point line and 2-of-5 from the free throw line for 22 points to go with six rebounds, four assists, a block and a steal in 32 minutes.

Zach Collins shot 50 percent from the field and 3-of-4 from the line for 14 points to go with three rebounds, two blocks, an assist and a steal in 21 minutes. Rodney Hood also added 14 points, while CJ McCollum went 5-of-16 from the field for 12 points to round out Portland's double-digit scorers.

The Nuggets shot nearly 50 percent from the field and had six players finish in double figures led by 25 points from Nikola Jokic, who also grabbed 19 rebounds and handed out six assists. Paul Millsap went 9-of-17 from the field for 24 points. Jamal Murray came an assist away from a double-double with 18 points and nine assists and Gary Harris added 16 points in 37 minutes.

The Trail Blazers now head back to Portland to face an elimination game Thursday night at the Moda Center.

"We've got two must-wins," said Stotts. "Somebody was going to have a must-win after tonight, and it's us. So we've got two must-wins ahead of us."

Tipoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on TNT.

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